Econintersect: The American Trucking Associations’ (ATA) trucking index rose again 0.9% in March after decreasing 0.7% in February. (The 0.7% loss in February was revised down from a 0.6% increase ATA reported originally.) Compared with March 2012, seasonally adjusted tonnage was up 3.8%. Truck tonnage has surged 7.6% in the last 5 months.
It should be noted that jobs declined in March 2013 in the trucking industry. From ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello:
“Fitting with the expectation for solid gross domestic product growth in the first quarter, tonnage was strong in March and the quarter overall. At 3.9% year-over-year growth, the first quarter increase was the best since the final quarter 2011.”
Expect freight tonnage will slow in the months ahead as the federal government sequester continues and households finish spending their tax returns. The good news for tonnage is housing starts are growing and energy production is good – both of which generates heavy freight. However, these two sectors alone won’t be enough to keep the overall index growing at a 3.9% clip in the second quarter.
Econintersect tries to validate data across data sources. It appears this month that jobs growth says the trucking industry grew 0.4% month-over-month (red line) and trucking jobs indexed to Jan 2000 = 100 is continuing to show steady improvement (blue line). Please note using BLS employment data in real time is risky, as their data is normally backward adjusted significantly. However, long term trends are showing a steady growth.
Please note that the ATA does not release an unadjusted data series where Econintersect can make an independent evaluation. Not all trucking companies are members of the ATA, and therefore it is unknown if this data is a representative sampling of the trucking industry.