posted on 07 March 2016
Truck shipments are in contraction year-over-year.
The American Trucking Associations' (ATA) trucking index declined 1.4 % in January, following no change during December. In January, the index equaled 132.8 (2000=100), down from 134.7 in December, an all-time high (along with November 2015).
From ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello:
Truck tonnage index last month
Truck tonnage this month
Compared with one year ago, seasonally adjusted tonnage increased 0.0 %.
Econintersect tries to validate ATA truck data across data sources. It appears this month that jobs growth says the trucking industry improved month-over-month (red line). Please note using BLS employment data in real time is risky, as their data is normally backward adjusted significantly.
Trucking Conditions Index for November Signals Anticipated Capacity Concerns by Second Half 2016
CASS FREIGHT INDEX REPORT
Year over year, freight shipments were essentially flat from last year, just 0.2 percent lower than last January. Sequentially, January was the fourth month in a row that the number of freight shipments declined.
The Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported that carloads were down 20.6 percent, while intermodal loadings fell 11.9 percent over December 2014. The AAR attributed the decline to soft economic conditions in the U.S. and globally. The continued steep decline in energy prices hurt the railroads on several fronts in January.
First, it caused a dramatic decline in coal shipments, one of their primary commodities, as power generating plants continue to shift to less expensive natural gas. Second, a drop in petroleum and petroleum products shipments as oil mining came to a virtual standstill in the U.S. And third, there has been a loss of shipments of materials used in petroleum extraction. Truck tonnage also eroded in January, but not to the same extent as railroads. Carriers are reporting that capacity and demand are very well matched right now.
At best, truck shipments are weak. At worst, they are contracting towards multi-year lows. Consider that online retailing is growing, and this is a contradictory sign.
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