Inventories grow leaner
The ratio of inventories to sales dipped to 1.26 in December 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It was the first drop after four straight months at 1.27. The inventories-to-sales ratio is barely higher than the all-time low of 1.25 in March 2011. Continuation of lean inventories relative to sales suggests normal shipment levels in the near term for trucking companies.
Truck loadings dip in January from December (Seasonally Adjusted: 2000=100)
Truck loadings were down 0.81% in January from December 2011, according to the FTR Loadings Index, published monthly by transportation forecasting firm FTR Associates. Compared to January 2011, the FTR Loadings Index is up 2.34%. The index generally has been rising gradually since hitting a recent low point in late 2009.
Manufacturing orders growth accelerates
The 2.8-point increase in the New Orders index from December 2011 to January suggests continued improvement in near-term freight shipments. The composite PMI stood at 54.1% – 1 point higher than December 2011. 57.6%
Trailer and container loads for U.S. railroads were up 1.7% in January over January 2011.
Rail carloads were up 0.1%.
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Trucking adds 5,300 jobs in January
The for-hire trucking industry added 5,300 new payroll workers in January, according to preliminary figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Payroll employment in for-hire trucking is up by 51,500, or 4%, from January 2011. Employment is up by 89,100, or 7.2%, from the bottom in March 2010, but it remains 130,100, or 9%, from the peak in January 2007.
The American Trucking Associations’ advance seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 5.9% in 2011 – the largest annual increase since 1998.
Housing starts were up 1.5% in January compared to December 2011 and up 9.9% over January 2011. Permits for residential construction were up 0.7% over December 2011 and 19% above January 2011.
The Ceridian-UCLA Pulse of Commerce Index fell 1.7% in January on a seasonally and workday adjusted basis following a 0.4% decrease in December 2011.
Poised for growth
Even adjusting for seasonality, 75% of trucking executives expect business conditions to be better in six months, and only 3% believe things will be worse, according to the latest Randall-Reilly MarketPulse report. Executives at carriers with 100 or fewer trucks are just a bit less optimistic than their counterparts at larger operations; nearly 68% of executives at smaller carriers expect improved market conditions, while more than 79% of executives at larger carriers predict better business.
SAME — 22%
BETTER — 72%
MUCH BETTER — 3%
WORSE — 3%