Tonnage down 0.5% in February and more

Updated May 3, 2010

Tonnage down 0.5% in February

ATA index up 2.6% year-over-year

The American Trucking Associations’ advance seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index decreased 0.5 percent in February following a revised 1.9 percent increase in January. The latest drop put the SA index at 108.5, down from 109.1 in January. The nonseasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 97.6 in February, down 0.8 percent from the previous month.

Compared with February 2009, SA tonnage increased 2.6 percent, which was the third consecutive year-over-year gain. For the first two months of 2010, SA tonnage was up 3.5 percent compared with the same period last year. For all of 2009, the tonnage index contracted 8.7 percent, which was the largest annual decrease since 1982.

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello says that the February tonnage reading is difficult to interpret because of the severe winter storms that impacted truck freight movements during the month, particularly on the East Coast, but that he remains optimistic about the industry’s recovery. “I continue to hear from motor carriers that both the demand and supply situations are steadily improving,” Costello says. “Certainly it will take a while to make up the ground lost during the recession, but the industry is on the path to recovery.” Costello expects to see some volatility on a month-to-month basis throughout this year, but the trend line should be for moderate growth.

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.

NAFTA surface trade up 19.5% in January

Trade using surface transportation between the United States and its North American Free Trade Agreement partners Canada and Mexico was 19.5 percent higher in January 2010 than in January 2009, reaching $56.7 billion, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The 19.5 percent increase was the largest year-over-year rise since March 2000.

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 3.0 percent in January 2010 from December 2009; month-to-month changes can be affected by seasonal variations and other factors. n

In brief

* After a tumultuous 2009, freight broker metrics are showing signs of stabilization, according to the annual TransCore Broker Benchmark Survey. Respondents moved an average of 990 loads per month, which was not a significant change from last year’s survey, even though TransCore’s Freight Index reported that spot market load volume for the year slid by 43 percent.

* FTR Associates forecasted that 2010 demand for Class 8 vehicles will increase 3 percent over 2009, followed by significant improvement of more than 50 percent in 2011. FTR says soft consumer spending and weak housing demand indicate a slow recovery and will hurt truck demand, as will the continuing large overhang in underutilized and idle trucks and the new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-mandated engine technology.

* Repossessions and liquidations of trucking equipment in the fourth quarter of 2009 declined significantly as compared to similar figures from 2008, according to Nassau Asset Management’s NasTrac Quarterly Index.

* Leaders of freight unions endorsed an economic relief plan for ABF Freight that calls for a reduction in gross wages and mileage rates of 15 percent effective the first payroll period after ratification through the term of the National Master Freight Agreement, which runs until March 31, 2013.

* GE Capital Fleet Services launched TruckVantage Compliance, a regulatory compliance service for truck customers. The service, offered with J.J. Keller & Associates, combines GE Capital Fleet Services’ truck expertise with J.J. Keller’s dedicated focus on regulatory compliance.