Tank loadings down in January
March 1, 2012
Tank freight is getting pulled in different directions and overall is remaining weak. Tank loadings dropped 0.8% in January to 9.389 million. Growth in December was revised significantly upwards to show a gain of 2.1%. Revisions to the historical data have removed much of the volatility over the last 2 years. That has had the effect of removing the strong year-over-year growth that we initially estimated. The year-over-year growth rate went near zero in October and was up just 0.3% in January. The year-over-year growth will remain weak for most of 2012, with a chance for better growth towards the end of the year.
Although tank loadings trail the other truck types they still should be near their long run 2% average. This performance masks high variation among the constituent parts. Fuels are weak given auto fuel conservation and the warm weather. Fertilizer is slow due to the retreat from the record harvest of 2009 and 2010. Chemicals are relatively strong due to the manufacturing recovery and the low price of natural gas. That makes U.S chemical producers more competitive on global markets. There is also the boost from the hidden energy recovery sectors. This largely unreported work could account for up to 10% of all tank loads.
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.
Tank freight fell hard in the middle of 2008 but had a surprisingly strong uptick to end the year. Volumes then proceeded to drop for the next four quarters, bottoming out at the end of 2009. Growth was solid and steady throughout 2010 and then was essentially flat for most of 2011. Loadings were atypically volatile in Q4 with 2 very weak months offset by a very strong surge in December.
Tank loadings fell 9.0% in 2008 and 5.8% in 2009. Volumes were nearly unchanged in 2010, up just 0.7%. 2011 saw better growth with loadings growing 3.0%. Growth will remain relatively weak for this recovery, rising 1.2% in 2012, 1.8% in 2013, and 1.7% in 2014.
REVISED DATA: 2009 changed from a decline of 10.8% to -5.8%. 2010 changed from a big gain of 9.8% to a weak 0.7%. 2011 growth moved higher from 0.9% to 3.0%.
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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