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posted on 22 June 2016

Trucking Tonnage Data Improved in May 2016

Written by Steven Hansen

Truck shipments were reported up in May - even though the BLS employment data was very weak.

ATA Trucking

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

From ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello:

Following two consecutive decreases totaling 6 percent, May was a nice increase in truck tonnage. Better consumer spending in April and May certainly helped, but economic growth remains mixed and I'd expect the recent choppy pattern in tonnage to continue for the next quarter or two.

We recently received good news on the inventory cycle, with the total business inventory-to-sales ratio declining for the first time in nearly a year. While one month doesn't make a trend, this was good news for the trucking industry

Truck tonnage this month

z truck.jpg

Compared with one year ago, seasonally adjusted tonnage increased 5.7 %.

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

Weak Q1 Economics Pull FTR's Trucking Conditions Index Up in April

[no summary statement this month]



Although North American freight shipments continued to climb in May, they are still well below those of the last several years. Expenditures for freight fell for the third time in five months. The current economic outlook is volatile, which has led to slow uneven growth. What is perceived as a strong sign one week often looks like a sign of economic weakness the next. Even the Federal Reserve is having difficulty pinning down the direction and strength of the economy. At their June 15 meeting, they lowered their economic growth projection from 2.2 percent to 2.0 percent. The global economy is facing many unsettling influences, such as Britain's possible exit from the EU, China's economic woes and currency problems, and oil prices.

The May freight shipments index rose 1.3 percent from April. This represents the high point so far for 2016, but it was still 5.8 percent below May 2015 and 7.0 percent lower than May 2014. This year we have failed to see the robust growth in shipments that we expect to see this time of year. In May, railroad carload shipments and container shipments were up 1.9 and 2.1 percent respectively. The Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported that May carloads were 10.3 percent lower than in the same month in the 2015, while intermodal container shipments were 3.3 percent lower than last year. Truck tonnage continues to slide for both linehaul and spot markets. Port activity improved slightly in May, but not enough to contribute to a great increase in domestic movements. Industrial production dropped 0.4 percent in May, with the biggest declines in manufactured goods, especially autos. The decline was much larger than had been forecast. The Institute for Supply Management's PMI index for production declined 3.0 percent‐‐the third decline in a row. The Index for New Orders fell 0.2 percent the Backlog of Orders Index dropped for the third month in a row, down another 6.9 percent



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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