January 24th, 2014
Econintersect: The American Trucking Associations’ (ATA) trucking index improved 0.6% in December 2013 after jumping 4.7% in November. The current level is a record high. From ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello:
Tonnage ended 2013 on a high note, which fits with many economic indicators as trucking is an excellent reflection of the tangible goods economy. The final quarter was the strongest we’ve seen in a couple of years, rising 2.2% from the third quarter and 9.1% from a year earlier. The tonnage acceleration in the second half of the year is pointing to an economy that is likely stronger than some might believe.
I’m seeing more broad-based gains now. The improvement is not limited to the tank truck and flatbed sectors like earlier in the year. With manufacturing and consumer spending picking up, coupled with solid volumes from hydraulic fracturing, I look for tonnage to be good in 2014 as well.
Compared with December 2012, seasonally adjusted tonnage was up 8.2%. Truck tonnage year-to-date is up 6.2% over 2012 - making this the best year's growth since 1998.
Econintersect tries to validate data across data sources. It appears this month that jobs growth says the trucking industry increased 0.0% month-over-month (red line) and trucking jobs growth indexed to Jan 2000 = 100 which had has been flat since April 2013 (blue line) - now appears to be flat over the last few monthss. Please note using BLS employment data in real time is risky, as their data is normally backward adjusted significantly.
This data series is not transparent and therefore cannot be relied on. Please note that the ATA does not release an unadjusted data series (although they report the unadjusted value each month - but do not report revisions to this data) where Econintersect can make an independent evaluation. The data is apparently subject to significant backward revision. 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.