February 2021 Trucking Slows

Headline data for the CASS Freight Index show that truck volumes show volumes slowed month-over-month - and the year-over-year growth declined but remained in positive territory. The American Trucking Association (ATA) index declined and is in contraction year-over-year. 

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 decreased 4.5% in February after rising 1.8% in January. In February, the index equaled 110 (2015=100) compared with 115.2 in January.

Said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello:

February's drop was exacerbated, perhaps completely caused, by the severe winter weather that impacted much of the country during the month. Many other economic indicators were also soft in February due to the bad storms, but I continue to expect a nice climb up for the economy and truck freight as economic stimulus checks are spent and more people are vaccinated.

Compared with February 2020, the SA index fell 5.9%, which was preceded by a 1.6% year-over-year decline in January. In 2020, the index was 4% below the 2019 average.

ATA Truck tonnage this month

source: ATA


CASS FREIGHT INDEX REPORT

The following was reported by CASS:

Polar Vortex Slows February Freight

The shipments component of the Cass Freight Index® was impacted by the polar vortex event in mid-February, slowing the y/y growth rate to 4.1% in February from 8.6% in January, as anticipated in the latest ACT Freight Forecast report released earlier this month.

The shipments index increased 1.8% m/m from January, which was well below the usual seasonal increase. When we seasonally adjust the index, February shipments were down 3.2% m/m. Reversing a SA 3.0% m/m increase from December to January, this slowdown reflects both the short-term weather effects and likely longer-lasting supply chain pain points, which are anticipated to slow the industrial recovery for a few months.

 

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