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posted on 22 March 2017

Trucking Data Mixed In February 2017

Written by Steven Hansen

Headline data for truck shipments were mixed in February - but our analysis believes trucking growth rate is improving.

Analyst Opinion of Truck Transport

I tend to put heavier weight on the CASS index which again showed a moderate improvement year-over-year. The ATA data continues to wander all over the map - and is likely a result of seasonal adjustment issues.

It is also interesting that the current trucking employment pattern is now showing a short term improvement trend which supports the CASS index.

ATA Trucking

slipped 0.1% in February, following a 2.9% increase during January.

February's numbers, especially the year-over-year drop, might surprise some as several other economic indicators were positive in February. However, I'm not worried about the decline from February last year as it was really due to very difficult comparisons more than anything else: February 2016 was abnormally strong.

Looking ahead, signs remain mostly positive for truck tonnage, including lower inventory levels, better manufacturing activity, solid housing starts, good consumer spending, as well as an increase in the oil rig count - all of which are drivers of freight volumes.

Truck tonnage this month

z truck.jpg

Compared with February 2016, the SA index decreased 2.8%.

Econintersect tries to validate ATA truck data across data sources. It appears this month that jobs growth says the trucking industry employment levels were up month-over-month. Please note using BLS employment data in real time is risky, as their data is normally backward adjusted (sometimes 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 Index for January Unchanged - Better Year Ahead

FTR's Trucking Conditions Index (TCI) for January was basically unchanged from December at a reading of 2.7. As detailed in the March issue of the Trucking Update, FTR expects January will be the low point for trucking conditions ahead of an expected bounce as 2017 progresses. The election results have put the industry in an optimistic mood; however, FTR cautions that there are risks associated with some economic proposals being considered by the new administration and congress.

source: http://www.ftrintel.com/news/latest-tci/index.php

CASS FREIGHT INDEX REPORT

Both the Shipments and Expenditures Indexes have been positive for two months in a row. Throughout the U.S. economy, there is a growing number of data points suggesting that the economy is getting better. Some data points are simply less bad, but an increasing number of them are better, and even a few are becoming outright strong. The 1.9% YoY increase in the February Cass Shipments Index is yet another data point which strongly suggests that the first positive indication in October may have indeed been a change in trend. In fact, it now looks as if the October Cass Shipments Index, which broke a string of 20 months in negative territory, was one of the first indications that a recovery in freight had begun in earnest. Data is suggesting that the consumer is finally starting to spend a little. It also suggests that, with the surge in the price of crude in October of last year, the industrial economy's rate of deceleration first eased and then began a modest improvement led by the fracking of DUCs (drilled uncompleted wells), especially in the fields with a lower marginal production cost (i.e., Permian and Eagle Ford). We have been questioning, "How fast will the recovery from here be?" However, the overall freight recession, which began in March 2015, appears to be over and, more importantly, freight seems to be gaining momentum.

Source: http://www.cassinfo.com/Transportation-Expense-Management/Supply-Chain-Analysis/Cass-Freight-Index.aspx



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