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posted on 20 April 2016

Trucking Tonnage Declined in March 2016

Truck shipments are reported down in March - with one index showing year-over-year growth whilst the other showing year-over-year contraction.

ATA Trucking

The American Trucking Associations' (ATA) trucking index fell 4.5 % in March, following a revised 7.2 % improvement in February. The decrease is the largest monthly contraction for the index since September 2012 (-5.3%).

From ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello:

As expected, tonnage came back to earth in March from the jump in February. These things tend to correct, and March took back more than half of the surprisingly large gain in February.

The freight economy continues to be mixed, with housing and consumer spending generally giving support to tonnage, while new fracking activity and factory output being drags. In addition, freight volumes are softer than the overall economy because of the current inventory overhang throughout the supply chain.

Truck tonnage this month

z truck.jpg

Compared with one year ago, seasonally adjusted tonnage increased 2.2 %.

Econintersect tries to validate ATA truck data across data sources. It appears this month that jobs growth says the trucking industry employment levels were marginally down month-over-month. 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.

source: ATA

FTR's Trucking Conditions February Reflect Slower Growth in Truck Loadings for 2016

FTR's Trucking Conditions Index (TCI) continued to soften in February due to a weakening of the freight environment early in 2016. The current reading at 8.27 reflects FTR's forecast for a slowdown in truck loadings from an average of 4% thus far in the recovery to 2% for full year 2016. There are still positive indicators for trucking including high capacity utilization and positive rate assumptions. The TCI is expected to begin a steady rise heading into 2017 due to expected regulatory capacity constraints and will continue to be positive into 2018 save for the risk of recession or the possibility of temporary spikes in fuel prices reacting to weak U.S. production.



Freight shipments slowed to only a 1.4 percent rise in March, following an 8.3 percent jump in February. Expenditures for freight declined 1.0 percent in March—reversing a portion of the 6.3 percent increase in February. Manufacturing and building construction have been on an upward trend and have just started showing up in the supply chain.

The March freight shipments index rose 1.4 percent, but still remains 1.5 percent below the same month a year ago. March shipments have grown at a slower pace than each February for the last couple of years, so this is not unexpected. The March 2016 index is still 6.2 percent lower than the December 2015 index, indicating that the plummet in January is going to take quite some time to dig out of. On an average basis, the first quarter of 2016 was 3.0 percent lower than the same period in 2015. The Institute for Supply Management's (ISM) PMI index continued to move up in March, posting a 4.6 percent rise. Notably, the index has just passed back over the 50 index level, indicating growth, for the first time since August 2015. This is the third consecutive month of growth and is a sign that manufacturing may finally be recovering from its slump. High inventories are still a big concern and will moderate future growth. Both the New Orders and the Order Backlog sub-indexes increased, 13.2 and 5.2 percent respectively. This should translate to higher production in April. One cautionary indicator though: the manufacturing sector cut 29,000 jobs in March. Railroad shipments picked up remarkably in March with a 22.2 percent rise in carloads and a 19.2 percent rise in intermodal shipments. These follow double digit drops in February. March figures for truck tonnage are not yet available. Expect sluggish but sustained growth in freight.



Although the data for trucking does not correlate, we can assume trucking growth is sluggish and is beginning to trend downward.

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