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ATA Truck Tonnage Index Fell 4.5% in March

Index Up 2.2% from March 2015

April 19, 2016
Arlington, Va. — American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index decreased 4.5% in March, following a 7.2% surge during February. In March, the index equaled 137.6 (2000=100), down from 144 in February. February’s level is an all-time high.

Compared with March 2015, the SA index was up 2.2%, which was down from February’s 8.6% year-over-year gain. Year-to-date, compared with the same period in 2015, tonnage was up 3.9%.

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 142.1 in March, which was 10.2% above the previous month (129).

“As expected, tonnage came back to earth in March from the jump in February,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “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,” he said. “In addition, freight volumes are softer than the overall economy because of the current inventory overhang throughout the supply chain.”

The decrease is the largest monthly contraction for the index since September 2012 (-5.3%).

Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing 68.8% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled just under 10 billion tons of freight in 2014. Motor carriers collected $700.4 billion, or 80.3% of total revenue earned by all transport modes.

ATA calculates the tonnage index based on surveys from its membership and has been doing so since the 1970s. This is a preliminary figure and subject to change in the final report issued around the 10th day of the month. The report includes month-to-month and year-over-year results, relevant economic comparisons and key financial indicators.

The American Trucking Associations is the largest national trade association for the trucking industry. Through a federation of 50 affiliated state trucking associations and industry-related conferences and councils, ATA is the voice of the industry America depends on most to move our nation’s freight. Follow ATA on Twitter or on Facebook. Trucking Moves America Forward.

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Experts Maintain U.S. Economy Still World’s Strongest, and Trucking Benefits

By Jonathan S. Reiskin, Transport Topics
October 19, 2015
PHILADELPHIA — The flawed and imperfect U.S. economy is, and will remain well into 2016, the world’s strongest producer — and trucking will benefit from that, two economists offering forecasts said here.

The nation needs to work off a temporary bloating of inventories but then will resume an underlying growth pattern of 2.5% per year or more, they say. Trucking will benefit from a stronger housing market, the economists said Oct. 18 at the Management Conference & Exhibition of American Trucking Associations.

Two chief economists, Bob Costello of ATA and Nariman Bahravesh of IHS Inc., offered analysis and forecasts at MCE.

In a quick tour around the world, Behravesh said China’s official growth rate of 7% a year is quite probably overstated, Brazil is suffering through a normal recession and Russia has that plus self-inflicted troubles from a war and sanctions. India, he said, now is growing more rapidly than China.

Behravesh said China, plagued by a rapid expansion in debt, could become like Japan, an economy that did not collapse but one that has been stagnant for many years.

As for the United States, he said, it is close to full employment and the risk of inflation is low. The domestic economy is doing well but exports are a problem, Behravesh said, because the U.S. dollar is strong, meaning it is hard for manufacturers to export their goods.

Costello said inventory increases, which decrease the demand for new goods, have their root in trucking.

“I’ve talked to shippers, and the capacity constraints we saw in 2014 were like nothing we’ve ever seen before,” he said. Therefore, shippers decided to increase inventory levels, but the economy “took a breather.”

Costello said the glut of products on shelves is not so large as to cause great worry.

“The U.S. economy is on solid footing,” he said. “When this inventory adjustment is done, there will be a high volume of freight,” Costello said.

The demand for trucking services should boost both the truckload and less-than-truckload sectors, he said. Earlier this decade, the tank truck group enjoyed the greatest demand but now that spot has moved to refrigerated carriers, Costello said.

Behravesh said the nation will enjoy “decent growth but not gangbusters.”

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