The American Trucking Assns. (ATA) has reported that its advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index jumped 1.4% in September.
That performance matched the increase notched in August. (ATA noted that the August tally was unchanged from what it reported on September 24th.) In September, the SA index equaled 128.7 (where 2000=100) vs. 126.9 in August.
And compared with September 2012, the SA index surged 8.4%--- marking the largest year-over-year (YoY) gain since December 2011. Year-to-date, compared with the same period in 2012, the tonnage index is up 5.4%.
ATA also noted that its separate not seasonally adjusted index (which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by fleets before any seasonal adjustment) equaled 128.1 in September, which was 2.5% below the previous month (131.3).
“I continue to be pleasantly surprised on the strength of truck tonnage,” ATA chief economist Bob Costello remarked.
“I attribute a part of tonnage’s robustness to the sectors of the economy that are growing fastest, like housing construction, auto production, and energy output,” he continued. “These industries produce heavier than average freight, which leads to faster growth in tonnage vs. a load or shipment measure.”
Costello also observed that “while tonnage is likely running ahead of overall economic growth, perhaps the economy is stronger than many believe. The index has now increased in four of the last five months and the year-over-year growth rate has accelerated.
“Plus, other measures of truck freight volumes, while increasing at a slower pace than tonnage, have also accelerated in recent months,” he added. “However, the government shutdown served as a headwind in the fourth quarter.”
ATA pointed out that each month it asks its members the amount of tonnage each carrier hauled, including all types of freight. The indexes are then calculated based on those responses. The sample includes 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,” stated ATA. “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.”
ATA also noted that it has reported a “preliminary figure” subject to change in the final report, which is issued around the 10th day of each month.