January 2021 Trucking Improved

Headline data for the CASS Freight Index show that truck volumes show volumes grew month-over-month - and the year-over-year growth advanced further in positive territory. The American Trucking Association (ATA) index improved and now is in expansion.

Analyst Opinion of Truck Transport

The CASS index is inclusive of rail, truck, and air shipments. The ATA truck index is inclusive of only trucking industry member movements (ATA's tonnage data is dominated by contract freight).

I put a heavier weight on the CASS index year-over-year which is more consistent with rail and ocean freight.

Econintersect tries to validate truck data across data sources. It appears this month that the truck employment rate of growth continues to improve. Please note using BLS employment data in real-time is risky, as their data is normally backward adjusted (sometimes significantly). Additionally, Econintersect believes that the BLS is not capturing all truck employment.

ATA Trucking

American Trucking Associations' advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 1.4% in January after rising 1.2% in December. In January, the index equaled 114.6 (2015=100) compared with 113.1 in December.

Said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello:

Over the last four months, the tonnage index has increased a total of 3.3%, which is obviously good news. However, the index is still off 2.8% from the high in March as tonnage plunged 9% in April alone. I continue to expect a nice climb up for the economy and truck freight as we get more economic stimulus and increased vaccination numbers.

Compared with January 2020, the SA index fell 2.1%, which was preceded by a 2.6% year-over-year decline in December. In 2020, the index was 4% below the 2019 average.

ATA Truck tonnage this month

Source: ATA


The following was reported by CASS:

The shipments component of the Cass Freight Index accelerated to 8.6% y/y growth in January 2021 from 6.7% y/y growth in December. This was higher than the 7.8% predicted in this month's ACT Freight Forecast report (an in-depth report written by this author). The 1.1% m/m drop from December was much less than normal seasonality; however, on a seasonally adjusted (SA) basis, the shipments index rose 3.0% m/m from December. This was the largest SA m/m increase since September. This acceleration takes us another step closer to the strong growth environment which we expect to continue in 2021, due in no small part to easy comparisons. On a two-year stacked basis, the Cass Shipments Index was still 1.6% below January 2019.


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