Tonnage up 3.1% in January
ATA index up 5.7% year-over-year
The American Trucking Associations’ advance seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index jumped 3.1 percent in January following a revised 1.3 percent increase in December 2009. The latest gain boosted the SA index from 107 in December to 110.4 in January, its highest level since September 2008. The nonseasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 99.5 in January, down 3.3 percent from the previous month.
Compared with January 2009, SA tonnage surged 5.7 percent, which was the best year-over-year reading since January 2005 and the second consecutive increase. For all of 2009, the tonnage index was down 8.7 percent – slightly larger than the previously reported 8.3 percent drop – the largest annual decrease since a 12.3 percent plunge in 1982.
ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello says the latest tonnage reading, coupled with anecdotal reports from carriers, indicates that both the industry and the economy are clearly in a recovery mode. “While I don’t expect tonnage to continue growing as robustly as it did in January, the industry is finally moving in the right direction,” Costello says. “Although there are still risks that could throw the rebound offtrack, the likelihood of that happening continues to diminish.”
ATA calculates the tonnage index based on surveys from its membership. The report includes month-to-month and year-over-year results, relevant economic comparisons and key financial indicators. The baseline year is 2000.
FTR Associates released preliminary data showing February Class 8 truck total net orders for all major North American OEMs at 7,628 units, 19.7 percent higher than January when orders were the lowest since 2002. While February compared positively to the previous month as well as to February 2009, orders remained significantly below the 2009 monthly average of 10,064 units.
J.J. Keller & Associates says it reduced initial International Fuel Tax Association, International Registration Plan and mileage tax audit assessments by more than 75 percent in 2009, helping clients with a total of 84 audits and collectively saving more than $100,000.
Fleet One is offering the Operation Homefront fuel card to fleets wishing to support U.S. troops. When a driver fills up with the fuel card, Fleet One will make a donation directly to the organization, up to $250,000 every year.
States participating in the Unified Carrier Registration Plan and Agreement may assess and collect fees after Dec. 31, 2009, based on the fee structure contained in the current regulation, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said last month in regulatory guidance. In accordance with a law passed by Congress in 2008, fees must be based on the number of self-propelled commercial motor vehicles owned and operated. FMCSA is considering an adjustment of UCR Plan fees, but a final rule has not been issued.
The cost of ground transportation for Canadian shippers declined 9.6 percent from December 2008 to December 2009, but freight costs appear to be stabilizing into 2010, according to the Canadian General Freight Index.
NAFTA surface trade up 10.5% in December
Trade using surface transportation between the United States and its North American Free Trade Agreement partners Canada and Mexico was 10.5 percent higher in December 2009 than in December 2008, with a value of $58.5 billion, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The increase was the first over the same month of the previous year since September 2008, but the value of trade in December still remained 4.0 percent below the value in December 2007.
BTS, a part of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration, reported that the value of U.S. surface transportation trade with Canada and Mexico fell 0.8 percent in December 2009 from November 2009; month-to-month changes can be affected by seasonal variations and other factors. The value of U.S. surface transportation trade with Canada and Mexico in December was up 12.3 percent compared to December 2004, and up 36.6 percent compared to December 1999. Imports in December were up 37.0 percent compared to December 1999, while exports were up 36.2 percent.
U.S.-Canada surface transportation trade totaled $35.4 billion in December, up 7.8 percent compared to December 2008. The value of imports carried by truck was 2.3 percent lower in December 2009 than December 2008, while the value of exports carried by truck was 11.2 percent higher. Michigan led all states in surface trade with Canada in December with $4.7 billion.
U.S.-Mexico surface transportation trade totaled $23.0 billion in December, up 15.0 percent compared to December 2008. The value of imports carried by truck was 15.5 percent higher in December 2009 than December 2008, while the value of exports carried by truck was 10.4 percent higher. Texas led all states in surface trade with Mexico in December with $7.9 billion.
The TransBorder Freight Data are a unique subset of official U.S. foreign trade statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau. New data are tabulated monthly, and historical data are not adjusted for inflation. Surface transportation consists largely of freight movements by truck, rail and pipeline; about 85 percent of U.S. trade by value with Canada and Mexico moves by land modes.
Indices indicate positive signs in freight market
Freight availability in February more than tripled on the North American spot market compared to February 2009, with a 215 percent increase, according to the TransCore North American Freight Index that measures truckload freight volume found on load boards powered by the DAT Network, including 3sixty Freight Match, TruckersEdge.net and LinkLogistics. This marked the fifth consecutive month of improvement on a year-over-year basis and indicated unusually strong seasonal volume. February, normally a weak month for spot freight, was within 5 percent of the record levels reached in 2004.
In another sign of positive traction in the freight market, online freight matching service Internet Truckstop’s real-time Market Demand Index (MDI) exceeded 7 the last week in February, marking the first time since July of 2008 that the MDI rose above 7. The MDI measures relative demand for available trucks in the market. An MDI below 7 indicates pricing leverage resides with shippers or freight brokers. An MDI higher than 7 indicates pricing leverage in favor of motor carriers. n