Truck loadings fell in January
February 24, 2012
A drop in volumes is not unexpected following such a strong burst of activity to end the year. After an upwardly revised surge of 2.7% in December, month-over-month loadings fell 0.8% in January. Revisions to our historical data shows that the year-over-year growth was flat for the first part of Q4 before improving in December to 3.0%. Growth fell slightly in January to 2.3%. We anticipate seeing it bounce between 3% and 5% for most of 2012.
NOTE: We are continuously updating and improving our data and calculations so that we can present you the best insights and analysis available. To that end we have updated our historical data to better reflect the wide swings in economic activity that occurred during the Great Recession and the ensuing recovery. You will notice substantial changes to our data this month. To find out what those changes were and how they affect our outlook for the industry click here.
Truck volumes dropped throughout 2009, bottoming out in Q4 at 157.7 million loadings. After seeing strong gains during 2010, particularly Q2, volumes were essentially flat for the first half of 2011 before starting to tick up in Q3 and Q4. The fourth quarter ended the year with quarter-over-quarter growth of 0.8%, which was just below its year-over-year gain of 1.2%.
After dropping slightly in 2007, loadings fell 5.9% in 2008 and plummeted 11.3% in 2009. We rebounded 3.3% in 2010 followed by growth of 3.5% in 2011. Our outlook for 2012 is nearly unchanged at 3.9%. Our forecast for 2013 and 2014 improved some and is now also at 3.9% for both years. Just remember that the farther we get away from the last recession, the closer we get to the next one. We don’t attempt to forecast when the market MIGHT turn down. We’ll leave that to the political prognosticators.
REVISED DATA: 2009 changed from a decline of 15.5% to -11.3%. 2010 changed from a big gain of 11.3% to a modest 3.3%. 2011 growth moved higher from 1.8% to 3.5%.
January’s healthy truck order activity reflects the growing optimism in the industry. Freight is growing healthily and the fleets are getting adequate pricing. December’s monthly freight data was very healthy, much of it probably due to unseasonable weather. January’s loadings fell from December’s big surge but still indicate that we are starting the year off on strong footing. We are starting to feel that a stronger upside to growth is possible.
The relative stability of truck growth over the last year has allowed easier capacity management than normal in upturns, when growth tends to rise and fall more. This equilibrium could be broken in 2012 given the presence of stronger economic upside and several downside exposures (notably Iran and Europe).
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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