Truck loadings surge in December
January 24, 2012
One month can make quite a difference. As last year waned we reported on how our revised data led to a rather disappointing 2011 where overall trucking growth slowed to just 2.2% – after a robust 11.8% in 2010. Then truck freight surged in December, rising 1.1% from November to 59.110 million loads. Unfortunately, revisions to prior months pulled the full year 2011 figure down to just 1.8% growth. The year-over-year gains remain strong and hit 5.3% in December, the first month above 5% since December 2010. Our expectations for early 2012 have improved a little and we anticipate that year-over-year growth will average just below the 5% level for most of the year.
As noted above, the initial estimate for full year 2011 came down slightly due to revisions in prior months. However, the outlook for 2012 improved, moving from up more than 1 full percentage point. The outlook for 2013 is unchanged. The economic environment continues to show improvement and the manufacturing sector remains strong.
After dropping slightly in 2007, loadings fell 6.0% in 2008 and plummeted 15.5% in 2009. We had a surge of 11.3% in 2010, but 2011 only saw growth of 1.8%. The improving economic recovery pulled our outlook for 2012 above 4%. Growth will remain above trend in 2013 at 3.4%. We are instituting our 2014 outlook this month with a similar gain of 3.5%.
The 2011 slowdown was the result of the global showdown – kicked off by the Japanese tsunami in the spring then sustained by floods in Asia and sovereign debt problems in Europe. Now that more late year 2011 data has come in, we see that the U.S. economy is picking up, even to the point of a modest housing recovery. Most important, this strength translates to very good trucking growth, due to the recovery’s grounding in solid manufacturing output. FTR’s loadings data grew at a nearly 15% annualized run rate in December. Several other measures were also very strong. While it is highly unlikely that such spectacular growth will last for a year, FTR does expect trucking to grow at over 4% for 2012, well above the expectations for overall economic growth.
U.S. Truck Loadings is the estimated number of truck loads originated in the United States plus truck loads that come to U.S. destinations from Mexico and Canada. It is tons divided by the average tons per truck. FTR’s data is seasonally adjusted and measures both short and long-haul OTR segments.
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