The American Trucking Associations’ seasonally adjusted Truck Tonnage Index in the for-hire sector increased by 0.6 percent following a 4.7 percent gain in November. This last bump pushed the year 6.2 percent higher for the best performance since 1998. December’s index was 131.7, compared to its level of 130.9 in November. Without the seasonal adjustments, the index stood at 123 for the month of December 2013, a 1.4 percent decline from the 124.8 it achieved in November.
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The last-minute surge in the trucking tonnage index is a good indicator of the health of the tangible goods production within the economy. Unlike previous gains, this surge was not limited to tanker trucks and flat beds. It also includes the van sector, which is a good indicator of consumer confidence in making purchases, as well as the overall health of the manufacturing industry. According to ATA chief economist Bob Costello, “The final quarter was the strongest we’ve seen in a couple of years, rising 2.2% from the third quarter and 9.1% from a year earlier.”
In addition to manufacturing, this trend indicates the positive impact the fracking process is having on the oil industry, which depends on the trucking industry for much of its needs. Sixty eight and one half percent of all domestic freight is shipped via truck, including manufactured goods and retail goods.
A separate index, the Cass Truckload Linehaul Index, is also showing near record gains, setting a new high of 117.7 for the month of December. Since the capacity of trucking companies has not risen, even as tonnage is up across the board, prices for transport are at healthy levels, as well. Rates climbed 1.5 percent between December 2012 and December 2013. The number of drivers and the number of trucks fielded by trucking companies has remained relatively stagnant during this period. [/show_to]