Trucking Industry Growth Likely Contracted In 2019

Headline data for the American Trucking Association (ATA) and the CASS Freight Index are providing opposing statistics - is trucking up or down?

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). Even so, CASS breaks out trucking and claims it is down 3.3 % year-over-year and down 1.9 % month-over-month.

I tend to put a heavier weight on the CASS index which is consistent with rail and ocean freight. It is not logical that truck freight goes up when industrial production and ocean freight decline.

Econintersect tries to validate truck data across data sources. It appears this month that the truck employment rate of growth continues to slow. 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 3.3% in all of 2019, about half the annual gain in 2018 (6.7%), for the tenth straight annual increase.

Said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello:

Last year was not a terrible year for for-hire truck tonnage, and despite the increase at the end of the year, 2019 was very uneven for the industry. The overall annual gain masks the very choppy freight environment throughout the year, which made the market feel worse for many fleets. In December, strong housing starts helped advance the index forward.

ATA Truck tonnage this month

 

The advanced SA For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index rose 4% in December after falling 3.4% in November. In December, the index equaled 118.2 (2015=100) compared with 113.6 in November.

source: ATA

CASS FREIGHT INDEX REPORT

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