Tonnage edges upward in March
ATA index up 7.5% year-over-year
The American Trucking Associations’ advance seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 0.4 percent in March, following a revised 0.3 percent decrease in February. The latest improvement put the SA index at 109.2, which is the highest level since November 2008. The nonseasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 116.4 in March, up 19.1 percent from the previous month.
Compared with March 2009, SA tonnage jumped 7.5 percent, the fourth consecutive year-over-year gain and the largest increase since January 2005. For the first quarter of 2010, SA tonnage was up 4.9 percent compared with the same period last year.
ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello says he is getting more optimistic about the motor carrier industry’s recovery. “Freight is moving in the right direction, and I continue to hear from motor carriers that both the demand and supply situations are steadily improving,” says Costello, who attributed the first-quarter improvement in tonnage to the growing economy and to a slight inventory build after some sectors slashed inventories by too much in 2009. “For most fleets, freight volumes feel better than reported tonnage because the supply situation, particularly in the truckload sector, is turning quickly,” he says.
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 says a significant portion of the strong demand for truck production is a short-run surge created by the imminent onset of new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-compliant 2010 engines. According to FTR, fleets appear to be taking advantage of build slots for power units with pre-2010 EPA engines while they remain available.
* Spot market freight availability increased by 259 percent in March compared to the same month in 2009, according to TransCore’s North American Freight Index. The high load volume in March, added to the atypically high totals of January and February, contributed to the strongest first-quarter volume since 2004, TransCore says. March’s spot freight also exceeded February’s near-record volume by 44 percent.
* The Commodity Markets Oversight Coalition sent a letter to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) urging legislative reform of derivatives markets to strengthen oversight, transparency and stability, and to limit the role of financial speculation in regulated, over-the-counter and offshore markets.
* Intermodal transport’s share of U.S. long-haul truck traffic reached record highs in the first quarter of 2010, FTR Associates said. Intermodal’s share of U.S. long-haul (550-plus miles) movements of international and domestic containerized freight in the first quarter of 2010 was about 13.5 percent.
* Chris Davis and Brian O’Connell both were promoted to region general manager posts for GE Capital’s Trailer Fleet Services business. O’Connell now leads the leasing company’s sales and operations efforts for its branches in the Northeast, while Davis does the same in the West.
Year-over-year NAFTA trade up 24.1% in February
Trade using surface transportation between the United States and its North American Free Trade Agreement partners Canada and Mexico was 24.1 percent higher in February 2010 than in February 2009, reaching $59.5 billion, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The 24.1 percent increase is the largest year-over-year rise on record, but freight value still remained 14.3 percent less than the value in February 2008.
BTS, a part of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration, reported that the value of U.S. surface transportation trade with Canada and Mexico rose 4.9 percent in February 2010 from January 2010; 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 February was up 11.0 percent compared to February 2005, and up 29.6 percent compared to February 2000. Imports in February were up 28.3 percent compared to February 2000, while exports were up 31.2 percent.
U.S.-Canada surface transportation trade totaled $36.3 billion in February, up 21.7 percent compared to February 2009. The value of imports carried by truck was 6.4 percent higher, while the value of exports carried by truck was 23.5 percent higher. Michigan led all states in surface trade with Canada in February with $5.2 billion.
U.S.-Mexico surface transportation trade totaled $23.2 billion in February, up 28.0 percent compared to February 2009. The value of imports carried by truck was 27.6 percent higher, while the value of exports carried by truck was 18.3 percent higher. Texas led all states in surface trade with Mexico in February with $8.1 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.
Fleet Sentiment Buying Index improves in 2Q
The Q2 2010 FSR Equipment Buying Index as reported by CK Commercial Vehicle Research (www.ckcvr.com) improved 18 percent from the first quarter to a reading of 64.6. Of the second-quarter study participants of for-hire, private and government fleets, 33.3 percent planned to place orders for power units in that timeframe, with 29.8 percent planning trailer orders. Fleets responding to the second-quarter questionnaire operate in excess of 60,000 medium- and heavy-duty power units and 120,000 trailers.
“In addition to better equipment purchasing plans, we saw a reduction in the number of parked vehicles reported, improved stated utilization rates and a closer alignment of available freight to haul and fleet capacity,” says CKCVR’s Chris Kemmer. “However, there is still much caution being shown, especially as it relates to the purchase of new power equipment with 2010 emissions engines.” n