Werner Enterprises

Truck tonnage takes a dip in September

Oct. 25, 2017
But near-term trends remain positive overall for truck-hauled freight volumes, trade group economist says.

The for-hire truck tonnage index compiled monthly by the American Trucking Associations (ATA) slipped 0.9% in September after rising 4.7% during August.

And due to that prior-month surge – among other factors – Bob Costello, ATA’s chief economist, believes freight volumes will still increase overall near-term.

“September’s small setback doesn’t worry me,” he explained in a statement. “Freight has been improving and I would have thought tonnage last month would have been softer than it was.”

For example, compared with September of last year, the index is up 7.4% and year-to-date, compared with the same nine months in 2016, the index is up 2.4%.

“Tonnage gave back some of the solid gain in August, but remains at very high levels despite the weather-related issues during the month,” Costello pointed out. “Going forward, rebuilding from those hurricanes and other natural disasters like the wildfires in California will add to freight demand.”

At the fleet level, TL carrier Werner Enterprises noted in its third-quarter earnings statement that its “freight metrics” continue to show broad improvement.

“In July and August, freight trended better than normal and meaningfully better than the challenging freight market of third quarter of 2016,” the company said.

“As we moved into September, the freight market strengthened further due in part to the significant disruption caused by two major hurricanes in south Texas and Florida,” it noted. “These catastrophic weather events resulted in short-term costs in September due to out-of-route miles, higher fuel costs, equipment issues, and driver domicile issues.”

At the same time, however, those “events” improved spot market pricing and further widened the positive gap between demand and capacity.

“[That] better positions the freight and contractual rate markets going forward [and] freight volumes thus far in October have been seasonally better than normal,” Werner explained.

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