ATA reports improved tonnage results for November
December 18, 2012 - LM Editorial
November trucking volumes largely recovered from the Hurricane Sandy-induced declines in October, according to data released by the American Trucking Associations (ATA) today.
The ATA said that seasonally-adjusted (SA) truck tonnage in November—at 118.0 (2000=100) was up 3.7 percent in November, cancelling out the revised 3.7 percent decline from October, which was revised from 3.8 percent. This gain was the first for the SA since January, said ATA officials, and snapped a three-month skid of declines representing a cumulative drop of 4.6 percent.
On an annual basis, the November SA is up 1 percent, following a 2.1 percent annual decline in October. And on a year-to-date basis through the first 11 months of the year it is up 2.8 percent.
The ATA’s not seasonally-adjusted (NSA) index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by fleets before any seasonal adjustment, was 115.7 in November, 6.5 percent below October and 0.4 percent higher than November 2011.
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.
“Sandy impacted both October’s and November’s tonnage readings,” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said in a statement. “But it was still good to see tonnage snap back in November.” Costello added that he expects a boost to flatbed tonnage from the rebuilding in the areas impacted by Sandy, but most of that won’t happen until the spring when the money starts flowing and the weather is conducive to building.
And he also said if a fiscal cliff resolution is not imminent it is within reason to expect less tonnage as households will have less money to spend, which will dint consumer spending.
But if an agreement is reached, Costello expects that tonnage growth could decelerate in 2013, with better housing starts and auto sales offset by slower factory output and consumer spending.
Various shippers and carrier have repeatedly told LM that volumes remain in a holding pattern to a certain degree, with no real positive indications that things will change soon.
At last month’s NITL-IANA TransComp exhibition, both shippers and carriers explained that they expect current volumes and market conditions to largely remain at current levels, due to the nation’s fiscal challenges, which, if progress is not made by Congress, could drag the economy back into a recession and nix many of the hopeful indicators seen in recent months.
And sluggish retail sales numbers and declining manufacturing output, which both are key supply chain drivers, have also crimped overall economic output, too.
“When you look at what has happened in both the freight economy and the overall economy over the last 9 months, things have really flattened,” said Eric Starks, president of freight transportation forecasting firm FTR Associates. “It is a somewhat stagnant environment, especially with retail sales. But if we can get past the fiscal cliff with a good compromise that makes sense, it could be very beneficial.”
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