The American Trucking Associations (ATA) advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index slipped 0.4% in July 2013 after edging 0.1% higher in June. June’s increase was the same as ATA reported July 23, 2013. This latest drop was the first since April 2013. In July, the SA index equaled 125.4 (2000=100) versus June’s 125.9. June 2013 is the highest level on record. Compared with July 2012, the SA index increased 4.7%, which is robust, although the smallest year-over-year gain since April. Year-to-date, compared with the same period in 2012, the tonnage index is up 4.7%.
The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 129.6 in July, which was 3% above the previous month (125.9). “After gaining a total of 2.2% in May and June, it isn’t surprising that tonnage slipped a little in July,” said Bob Costello, ATA chief economist. “The decrease corresponds with the small decline in manufacturing output during July reported by the Federal Reserve. “Despite the small reprieve in July, we expect solid tonnage numbers during the second half of the year as sectors that generate heavy freight—like oil and gas and autos—continue with robust growth,” said Costello. “Home construction generates a significant amount of tonnage, but as mortgage rates and home prices rise, growth in housing starts will decelerate slightly in the second half of the year, but still be a positive for truck freight volumes. Tonnage gains in the second half of the year are likely to overstate the strength in the economy as these heavy freight sectors continue to outperform the economy overall.” Trucking serves as a barometer of the US economy, representing 68.5% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 9.4 billion tons of freight in 2012. Motor carriers collected $642.1 billion, or 80.7% of total revenue earned by all transport modes.