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posted on 29 May 2016

Trucking Tonnage Data Was Mixed in April 2016

Written by Steven Hansen

Truck shipments were reported mixed in April - with one index showing month-over-month growth (but in contraction year-over-year) whilst the other showing month-over-month contraction (but year-over-year growth).

ATA Trucking

The American Trucking Associations' (ATA) trucking index fell 2.1 % in April, following a decline in March.

From ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello:

After having an abnormally large seasonally adjusted gain in February, tonnage fell in April, in addition to the large drop in March. However, while freight remained soft in April, based on other economic indicators, the outlook for tonnage is a little better than just a couple of months ago.

With that said, there is still an inventory correction transpiring throughout the supply chain that will keep a lid on truck freight volumes in the near term. As a result, we are still likely to experience lackluster tonnage numbers in the next few months.

Truck tonnage this month

z truck.jpg

Compared with one year ago, seasonally adjusted tonnage increased 2.0 %.

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 up 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

Weak Q1 Economics Pull FTR's Trucking Conditions Index Down in March

FTR's Trucking Conditions Index (TCI) for March dropped nearly 50% from the previous month to a reading of 4.22, and is now at its lowest level since 2011. The index was negatively impacted by weak Q1 economics, and downside risks could prevent any real upward movement until late in the year. Truck loadings, and the freight market in general, are now consistent with a slow growth environment.



The April freight shipments index increased a meager 0.7 percent from March. The first four months of 2016 were a departure from the more robust growth we've seen in the same period for the last five years. The April 2016 freight shipments index is 4.9 percent lower that for April 2015. April railroad shipments reversed the 22.2 percent increase in carloads from February to March, dropping 21.1 percent. April intermodal shipments followed suit, declining 17.8 percent after a rise of 19.2 percent in March.

The March truck tonnage figure dropped 4.5 percent, erasing about half of the February gain. February was an all-time high for the American Trucking Associations' monthly Truck Tonnage Index. In April, the Institute for Supply Management's PMI Index declined 1.9 percent, a setback after four months of slow, but steady growth. New orders declined almost 4 percent. Interestingly, the only industry reporting a decline in new orders was textile mills. This is probably due to high inventory levels of retail goods, including clothing. Production fell almost 2 percent, with decreases in textiles and petroleum and coal production. The backlog of orders also declined about 1 percent. May is usually a relatively strong month for freight shipments, but given the high inventories with ever slower turnover rates and the decline in new production orders, May could be another soft month.



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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