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ACT Research Trucking Index shows nearly across-the-board declines

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This chart shows the history of the Volume Index which dropped further into negative territory hitting 46.7 (SA), from 49.5 in April. (Courtesy: ACT RESEARCH)

COLUMBUS, Ind. — The latest release of ACT’s For-Hire Trucking Index showed nearly across-the-board declines, with capacity being the lone exception.

The Pricing Index fell considerably to 38.8, in May on a seasonally adjusted (SA) basis, the lowest in survey history, from 45.4 in April.

The Volume Index dropped further into negative territory hitting 46.7 (SA), from 49.5 in April. Fleet productivity/utilization slipped to 46.0 in May on a seasonally adjusted basis down from 49.4 in April, and capacity growth increased to 54.6, from April’s 54.3 reading.

“May’s Pricing Index was the fourth consecutive negative number after 30 straight months of expansion. This confirms our expectation that the annual bid season is not going well for truckers,” said Tim Denoyer, ACT Research’s vice president and senior analyst. “We continue to believe rates are under pressure from weak freight volumes and strong capacity growth.”

Volume in May fell for the sixth time in the past seven months, Denover said.

“The softness coincides with several other recent freight metrics, with the drop likely due in part to rapid growth of private fleets and the slowdown in the industrial sector of the economy,” he said. “The supply-demand balance reading loosened to 42.1, from 45.3 in April. The past seven consecutive readings have shown a deterioration in the supply-demand balance, with May the largest yet.”

The ACT Freight Forecast provides quarterly forecasts for the direction of volumes and contract rates through 2020 and annual forecasts through 2021 for the truckload, less-than-truckload and intermodal segments of the transportation industry.

For the truckload spot market, the report provides forecasts for the next 12 months.

ACT is a publisher of new and used commercial vehicle (CV) industry data, market analysis and forecasting services for the North American market, as well as the U.S. tractor-trailer market and the China CV market. ACT’s CV services are used by all major North American truck and trailer manufacturers and their suppliers, major trucking and logistics firms, as well as the banking and investment community in North America, Europe, and China.

 

 

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New Class 8 truck sales drop to lowest point since February 2018

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A Kenworth W990 transported the Capitol Christmas tree to Washington. Kenworth had the largest increase in month-over-month sales. (Courtesy: JAMES EDWARD MILLS)

November sales of new Class 8 trucks dropped to the lowest point since February 2018, according to information received from Wards Data. According to Wards, manufacturers reported sales of 18,545 new trucks, a decline of 19.4% from October sales of 23,001. It was the second consecutive month of double-digit decline in sales as October sales were 18.6% under September numbers.

On a year-to-year basis, sales declined 12.9% from November 2018 sales of 21,302 trucks.

The declines are in line with the “substantial correction” in the 2020 market predicted in Transportation Digest, published by ACT Research in late November.

For months, orders for new Class 8 trucks have lagged far behind sales as OEMs continued to reduce their build backlogs. Stagnant freight rates, the potential for recession and uncertainty over trade disputes with China and other international partners have resulted in some trepidation among potential buyers.

Year-to-date sales of 253,266 have already eclipsed 2018 sales of 250,627 for the entire year. December sales will push the annual total higher and 2019 is already the second-best sales year of the century-to-date. It’s doubtful the total will reach the high-water mark of 284,008, established in 2006, given the current downward trend.

Of the individual OEMs, only Kenworth, Peterbilt and Western Star saw sales increases in November compared to October numbers. International sales dropped a whopping 72.4%, primarily due to fluctuations caused by delivery dates. October Class 8 sales were unusually high, followed by a lower than normal November. Volvo sales declined as well, dropping 32.0% from October and likely for the same reason. Mack sales dropped a more reasonable 3.2%

It will be interesting to see if December is, as is typical, one of the best sales months of the year or a continuation of the decline.

 

 

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Freight Transportation Service Index up 1.3% in October, BTS says

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From October 2018 to October 2019, the Freight Transportation Services Index rose 0.5% compared to a rise of 6.8% from October 2017 to October 2018. (The Trucker file photo)

WASHINGTON — The Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI) that is based on the amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry, rose 1.3% in October from September, up after a one-month decline, according to the Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS).

From October 2018 to October 2019, the index rose 0.5% compared to a rise of 6.8% from October 2017 to October 2018.

The level of for-hire freight shipments in October at 138.6 was exceeded by three previous months and was 1% below the all-time high level of 140.0 in August 2019. Records date back to 2000.

The September index was revised to 136.8 from 136.6 in last month’s release.  Monthly numbers for June through August were revised down slightly.

The Freight TSI measures the month-to-month changes in for-hire freight shipments by mode of transportation in tons and ton-miles, which are combined into one index. The index measures the output of the for-hire freight transportation industry and consists of data from for-hire trucking, rail, inland waterways, pipelines and air freight. The TSI is seasonally adjusted to remove regular seasons from month-to-month comparisons.

The October TSI was broad based with increases in trucking, water, pipeline and air freight. Both rail carloads and rail intermodal declined.

The TSI increase took place against a background of mixed results for other indicators. The Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production Index declined in October, reflecting decreases in all major industry groups. Personal income increased by less than 0.1%, while housing starts increased by 3.8%. The Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing index increased 0.5 points to 48.3, indicating contraction in the manufacturing sector but not as much contraction as in September.

The Freight Index’s 1.3% increase in October was the largest one-month Freight TSI increase since September 2018. Following a decrease of 2.3% in October, TSI was 1.0% below its record high of 140.0 in August. However, it remained above any level it had reached before the high of November 2018 and in all but one month prior to January 2019. The Freight TSI rose 15.8% from 120 in March 2016 to a level of 139.0 in November 2018, but has been essentially stable (declining by 0.3 %) since then. The October 2019 index was 46.2% above the April 2009 low during the most recent recession.

For-hire freight shipments measured by the index were up 1.9% in October compared to the end of 2018.

As for the long-term trend, for-hire freight shipments are up 13.3% in the five years from October 2014 and are up 40.4% in the 10 years from October 2009.

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ACT Research: Likelihood of heavy vehicle market recovery in 2020 tempered

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ACT Research President and Senior Analyst Kenny Vieth said broadly, there are three components to the forecast cuts for 2020 and 2021: Supply, demand, and timing. (Courtesy: ACT RESEARCH)

COLUMBUS, Ind. —  According to ACT’s latest release of the North American Commercial Vehicle OUTLOOK, expectations for the Class 8 and trailer production volumes have been trimmed for 2020, and expectations of a recovery starting in 2021 have been tempered.

Meanwhile, ACT’s December installment of the ACT Freight Forecast, U.S. Rate and Volume OUTLOOK report covering the truckload, intermodal, LTL and last mile sectors came with this headline: “Freight forecast: Lowering truckload spot rate forecasts on freight demand; what could drive rates up in 2020?”

As for the tempered Class 8 outlook, ACT President and Senior Analyst Kenny Vieth pointed to three factors.

“Broadly, there are three components to the forecast cuts for 2020 and 2021: Supply, demand, and timing,” Vieth said. “Some, like overcapacity, have been on the radar for a long time. Others, like the growing weakness in manufacturing and the broader economy, have come on slowly and inexorably over several months. The past six months have been marked by a continued loss of traction in manufacturing. Despite the GM-impacted payroll increase in November, most recent evidence from the sector suggests that recovery is likely to come later, rather than sooner.”

The North American Commercial Vehicle OUTLOOK is a robust report that forecasts the future of the industry, looking at the next 1-5 years, with the objective of giving OEMs, Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers, and investment firms the information needed to plan accordingly for what is to come. The report provides a complete overview of the North American markets, as well as takes a deep dive into relevant, current market activity to highlight orders, production, and backlogs, shedding light on the forecast. Information included in this report covers forecasts and current market conditions for medium and heavy-duty trucks/tractors, and trailers, the macroeconomies of the US, Canada, and Mexico, publicly-traded carrier information, oil and fuel price impacts, freight and intermodal considerations, and regulatory environment impacts.

As for the freight forecast, Tim Denoyer, ACT Research’s vice president and senior analyst, said, “This is the largest year-over-year drop in container imports since the Great Recession, aside from holiday timing. While partly because of the comparison against pre-tariff inventory building last year, we see evidence that trade issues will continue to drag the freight cycle through the mud. We’ve been forecasting a lengthy freight recession, but October imports, down 8% year-over-year, and fourth quarter rail volumes, down 7% year-over-year, are missing low expectations. In addition to a turn for the worse in our Spot Leading Indicator, this led us to modestly lower our spot rate forecasts for the first half of 2020.”

ACT Research also lowered Class 8 tractor sales forecasts today, supporting the beginning of the bottoming process for truckload rates, and this month’s report provides analysis of the factors that could pull forward the eventual rate recovery, from both a spot and a contract perspective.

“We expect capacity to rebalance over the course of 2020, but we caution not to jump to the conclusion that capacity is tightening because of carrier failures,” Denover said. “While our thoughts go out to the affected employees, even the largest bankruptcy in truckload history this week accounts for just 0.2% of the active fleet, or about 3% of the Class 8 tractor capacity that was added over the past year, and the equipment will be remarketed.”

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