The American Trucking Associations (ATA) reported a 5.7% increase in its for-hire truck tonnage index for August, making up for a 2.1% tonnage decline for July.
Compared to August 2015, the index is up 5.9%; the largest year-over-year tonnage gain since May, the ATA noted, which was also up 5.9%. Year-to-date, compared with the same 8-month stretch in 2015, tonnage is up 3.5%.
Still, Bob Costello, ATA’s chief economist, stressed in a statement that “volatility continues to reign in 2016” with the up-and-down movement TL freight tonnage in July and “underscoring the difficulty in determining any real or clear trend in truck tonnage.”
Costello noted that during the month of August over the previous three years, the average change in not seasonally adjusted tonnage was just 0.3%. This August, tonnage surged 4.8%, he said.
“What is clear to me is that normal seasonal patterns are not holding in 2016,” Costello added.
At the annual transportation conference hosted by research firm FTR last week, Noel Perry said that the traditional “peak season” for freight is now shifting from fall to summer – specifically to July – but ATA’s Costello is unsure of that trend.
“It’s hard to say, but we are seeing changes this year that we haven't seen before,” he told Fleet Owner.
Costello pointed out that despite a “difficult to read” August, he expects the truck freight environment to be “softer than normal” with “continued choppiness” until the ongoing inventory correction is complete – a correction Steve Latin-Kasper, market data and research director for the National Truck Equipment Association (NTEA), believes should be wrapped up by the fourth quarter this year,
“With moderate economic growth forecasted, truck freight will improve as progress is made with the inventory overhang,” ATA’s Costello said.