The “see-saw” movements in truck freight tonnage this fall remains consistent with projections for a so-called slow growth economy, according to industry analysts. The American Trucking Assns. (ATA) reported that its for-hire truck tonnage index increased 1.7% in September after falling by 2.8% in August. Those numbers confirm expected “up and down” swings in volumes for the remainder of the year, Eric Starks, president of FTR Associates, told Fleet Owner.
“We projected freight volumes to remain fairly choppy going forward through the end of 2010, and so far everything is trending as we expected,” Starks said. “From what we’re seeing, freight volumes are neither stronger nor weaker than what we expected.”
Bob Costello, ATA chief economist, said that truck tonnage over the last few months fits with an economy that is growing very slowly. “While I am glad to report that tonnage grew in September, the fact remains that truck freight volumes leveled off over the summer and early autumn,” he explained. “This is a reflection of an economy that is barely growing.”
Werner Enterprises noted in its third quarter earnings report that freight market trends continued to be good in the third quarter of this year and were better than those in third quarter of 2009. However, they were not as strong as in the second quarter of 2010.
“Freight trends thus far in October have softened from the third quarter of 2010, although we believe the larger shippers in our network may be shifting freight shipment volumes to large carriers in an effort to secure capacity going into 2011,” the truckload carrier added. “The softening seems to be driven more by smaller company shippers being more cautious with their inventory and overall volume projections.”
“Anecdotally, we’re hearing fleets talk of ‘softer’ freight volumes, but we’re not sure if this is a widespread trend yet in the industry,” FTR’s Starks cautioned.
“If such a ‘softening’ trend does develop, it’ll put downward pressure on our freight forecast. But nothing yet that we’re seeing indicates such a softening trend is happening.,” Starks added.