Econintersect: The American Trucking Associations’ (ATA) trucking index dropped 4.3% in January 2014 after falling a revised 0.8% in December (originally reported as 0.6% growth. The ATA revised the seasonally adjusted index back five years as part of its annual revision. From ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello:
Like most economic indicators, truck tonnage was negatively impacted by bad winter weather in January. 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.
As a result, Costello said January will be a tough month to gauge. 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.
Compared with January 2013, seasonally adjusted tonnage was decreased 1.2%. Truck tonnage year-to-date is down 1.2% over 2013.
Econintersect tries to validate data across data sources. It appears this month that jobs growth says the trucking industry increased 0.2% month-over-month (red line). 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.