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ATA Truck Tonnage Index jumped 1.4% in August

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 131.3 in August, which was 1.5 percent above the previous month (129.4).

The Trucker News Services

9/24/2013

ARLINGTON, Va. — The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 1.4 percent in August after falling 0.6 percent in July. (July’s decrease was larger than the 0.4 percent drop ATA reported on August 20, 2013.)

The latest gain was the largest since May. In August, the SA index equaled 126.9 (2000=100) versus 125.2 in July. Compared with August 2012, the SA index surged 6.9 percent, which is the largest year-over-year gain since December 2011. Year-to-date, compared with the same period in 2012, the tonnage index is up 5 percent.

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 131.3 in August, which was 1.5 percent above the previous month (129.4).

 “The strength in tonnage continued again in August, with the index increasing in three of the last four months,” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said. “The improvement corresponds with a solid gain in manufacturing output during August reported by the Federal Reserve last week.”

 “However, tonnage’s strength in recent months, and really through 2013, is probably overstating the robustness of the economy and trucking generally,” Costello said.  “It just so happens that the sectors of the economy that are growing the fastest in housing starts, auto production, and energy output, primarily through hydraulic fracturing produce heavier than average freight, leading to accelerated growth in tonnage relative to shipments or loads.

 “Truckload industry loads have accelerated the last few months, but are flat for the year, while less-than-truckload shipments are up less than 1.5 percent in 2013,” Costello added.

 Note on the impact of trucking company failures on the index: Each month, ATA asks its membership the amount of tonnage each carrier hauled, including all types of freight. The indexes are calculated based on those responses. The sample includes an array of trucking companies, ranging from small fleets to multi-billion dollar carriers. When a company in the sample fails, we include its final month of operation and zero it out for the following month, with the assumption that the remaining carriers pick up that freight. As a result, it is close to a net wash and does not end up in a false increase. Nevertheless, some carriers are picking up freight from failures and it may have boosted the index. Due to our correction mentioned above however, it should be limited.

 Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing 68.5 percent of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 9.4 billion tons of freight in 2012. Motor carriers collected $642.1 billion, or 80.7 percent 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. 

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.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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