ATA Truck Tonnage Jumped 1.2% in June
ARLINGTON, VA… The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 1.2% in June after falling 1.0% in May. (May’s loss was larger than the 0.7% drop ATA reported on June 19.) June’s increase was the largest month-to-month gain in 2012. However, the index contracted a total of 2.1% in April and May. The latest gain increased the SA index to 119.0 (2000=100), up from May’s level of 117.5. Compared with June 2011, the SA index was 3.2% higher, the smallest year-over-year increase since March 2012. Year-to-date, compared with the same period last year, tonnage was up 3.7%.
The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 123.0 in June, which was 0.9% below the previous month.
For the second quarter, the SA index was off 0.8% from the previous quarter, which was the first decrease in a year. Compared with the second quarter in 2011, the index was up 3.5%.
“June’s increase was a pleasant surprise, but the lower year-over-year gain fits with an economy that has slowed,” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said. “Manufacturing output was strong in June, which helped tonnage levels.”
Costello said he’s still concerned about businesses sitting on cash instead of hiring more workers or spending it on capital, both of which would give the economy and tonnage a shot in the arm, as they are worried about Europe and the U.S. fiscal cliff at the end of the year. Costello lowered his tonnage outlook for 2012 to the 3% to 3.5% range due to recent economic weakness.
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 67% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 9.2 billion tons of freight in 2011. Motor carriers collected $603.9 billion, or 80.9% 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.