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Trucking news: ATA reports seasonally-adjusted tonnage is down for third time in four months

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
August 23, 2011

Truck tonnage in July was down following growth in June, according to the American Trucking Associations (ATA).

The ATA’s advance seasonally-adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage index dropped 1.3 percent on the heels of a revised 2.6 percent June gain. This index has fallen in three of the last four months, with 0.6 percent and 2.0 percent declines in April and May, respectively, continuing a largely uneven pattern of freight transportation volumes.

The SA index is currently at 114 (2000=100), which is down from June’s 115.8 and up from May’s 112.8. It is at its second highest level since January. On an annual basis, it was up 3.9 percent compared to a 6.5 percent annual hike in June.

The ATA’s not seasonally-adjusted (NSA) index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by fleets before any seasonal adjustment, was at 111 in July, down 9 percent from June’s 122.3. The July 2010 NSA index was 109.9, putting the July 2011 NSA up about 1 percentage point higher.

As LM has reported, some industry analysts maintain that the not seasonally-adjusted index is more useful, because it is comprised of what truckers haul. As defined by the ATA, the not seasonally-adjusted index is assembled by adding up all the monthly tonnage data reported by the survey respondents (ATA member carriers) for the latest two months. Then a monthly percent change is calculated and then applied to the index number for the first month.

“We had heard that freight weakened from a robust June, that that was true,” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said in a statement. “Despite a solid June, our truck tonnage index fits with an economy that is growing very slowly. The good news is that tonnage continues to increase on a year-over-year basis, but it is likely that the rate of growth will moderate in the second half of the year.” 

Signs of economic weakness, including a recent slowdown in manufacturing data, sluggish retail sales and consumer confidence levels, and fears of a double-dip recession, are prevalent, and all appear to be contributing to lower freight volumes.

Many industry stakeholders maintain that conditions remain choppy, with no clear cut signs of a true recovery on the horizon at this point, especially when factoring in the dark unemployment and housing pictures, too.

In recent months, both shippers and carriers have explained that even though things are relatively steady in light of an uncertain economy, a good amount of the momentum occurring in the market earlier in the year has definitely lessened.

Both shippers and carriers noted that the second half of the year, coupled with how Peak Season shapes up, will go a long way in determining how things shake out in the trucking market.

“We are in a bit of a holding pattern, when it comes to things like increasing inventories and seeing orders increase in a meaningful way,” said a truckload shipper whom declined to be identified. “Until we see business conditions change, we will continue to monitor things in remain cautious. Demand has leveled off, but it is not terrible.”

About the Author

Jeff Berman headshot
Jeff Berman
Group News Editor

Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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