October truck tonnage levels show decent annual gains, reports ATA
November 20, 2013 - LM Editorial
Amid a still topsy-turvy economic outlook truck tonnage volumes appear to holding up pretty well, according to data released by the American Trucking Associations (ATA) earlier this week.
Seasonally-adjusted (SA) truck tonnage in October dropped 2.8 percent, following a 0.5 percent gain in September, with the index at 124 (2000=100). This is the lowest SA level going back to April and snapped three months of sequential growth. But on an annual basis, the SA index was up 8 percent compared to October 2012, which the ATA said is the largest annual increase since December 201l, adding that the SA index is up 5.5 percent year-to-date through October.
The ATA’s not seasonally-adjusted (NSA) index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by fleets before any seasonal adjustment, increased 4.9 percent from 126.9 in September to 133 in October and is up 4.5 percent annually compared to the 123.7 SA recorded in October 2012, which was impacted by Hurricane Sandy.
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.
“From May through September, the index surged 3.5%, including only one monthly decrease over that period,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello in a statement. “It isn’t surprising for volumes to fall back some after such a good run. Despite October’s month-to-month decrease, we saw a very robust year-over-year increase and I’m seeing some good signs out of the trucking industry that suggests the economy may be a little stronger than we think. Specifically, the heavy freight sectors, like tank truck, have been helping tonnage this year. But in the third quarter, generic dry van truckload freight saw the best quarterly gains since 2010. I view this positively for the economy. I view it positively for trucking. Now, we have to see if it continues.”
How volumes shake out in the coming months remains to be seen. Many trucking executives at this week’s Transcomp Expo in Houston pointed to a relatively modest economic outlook which is playing out in their tonnage levels. While they indicated things are currently “steady,” they added that there are no clear indications that current trends will change any time soon.
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