January truck tonnage takes a weather-influenced step back, reports ATA
February 19, 2014 - LM Editorial
Difficult winter weather conditions played a significant role in January truck tonnage, according to data released by the American Trucking Associations (ATA) today.
Seasonally-adjusted (SA) truck tonnage in January dropped 4.3 percent, following a 0.8 percent drop in December. The index was at 124.4 (2000=100), and the all-time high was November’s 131.0, which was 2.7 percent better than December. On an annual basis, the January SA was up 1.2 percent.
The ATA’s not seasonally-adjusted (NSA) index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by fleets before any seasonal adjustment was 122.3 in January, down 0.3 percent from December’s 122.7 and was down .01 percent annually.
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.
“Like most economic indicators, truck tonnage was negatively impacted by bad winter weather in January,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said in a statement. “The thing about truck freight is that it’s difficult to catch up. Drivers are governed by hours-of-service regulations and trucks are limited to trailer lengths and total weights, thus it is nearly impossible to recoup the days lost due to bad storms. January wasn’t just one storm, it was several across a large part of the country. Therefore, I wouldn’t panic from the largest monthly drop in two years. I’ve heard from many fleets that freight was good, in-between storms. The fundamentals for truck freight still look good.”
Weather aside, many shippers and carriers indicate that things are moving along as expected when viewing the market on a seasonal basis.
But they concede that such atypical weather patterns are making an imprint on supply chain operations, with far more contingency and capacity planning being required than normal.
Morgan Stanley analyst Bill Greene said in a research note that the underperformance in the NSA index reflects a tough sequential comp and severe weather conditions, adding that truckload carriers suggest underlying freight fundamentals remain solid.
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