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Freight Transportation Services Index down 0.7 percent in May

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WASHINGTON — The Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI), which is based on the amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry, fell 0.7% in May from April, falling for the second consecutive month. From May 2018 to May 2019, the index declined 0.2% compared to a rise of 8.6% for the previous year.

The level of for-hire freight shipments in May measured by the Freight TSI (135.4) was 2.4% below the all-time high level of 138.7 in November 2018. BTS’ TSI records begin in 2000. See historical TSI data.

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 BTS said the May decline in the Freight TSI was driven by decreases in rail carloads, rail intermodal, trucking and water, while air freight and pipeline increased.

The TSI decline took place against a background of growth for other indicators. The Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production index increased by 0.4% in May, with growth in all sectors. Personal income increased by 0.5%, while housing starts grew by 0.3%. The Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing index declined from 52.8 in April to 52.1 in May, indicating continued but decelerating growth.

With the decline of 0.7% in May, the index fell for the second consecutive month, the third time in four months and the fourth time in six months for a total drop of 2.4% since peaking in November 2018. The November high followed an increase of 6.5% in the 10 months since January 2018, and of 14.1% percent in the 27 months since September 2016. The index is down 0.2% from May 2018 but up 8.4% from May 2017 and up 11.3% from May 2016. The May index was 42.8% above the April 2009 low during the most recent recession. For additional historical data, go to TSI data.

 

 

 

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ATA For-Hire Truck Tonnage index increases 0.2% in September

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Compared with September 2018, the SA index increased 3.5%. The index is up 4.1% year-to-date compared with the same period last year. (The Trucker file photo)

ARLINGTON, Va. — American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 0.2% in September after falling 4% in August.

In September, the index equaled 117.6 (2015=100) compared with 117.3 in August.

“This was the first month in 2019 that we did not see a significant increase or decrease in tonnage,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “For the entire third quarter, the index was up 1.2% over the previous quarter and 4.5% from a year earlier, both are nice gains.”

It is important to note that ATA’s tonnage data is dominated by contract freight, which is performing significantly better than the plunge in spot market freight this year.

August’s reading was revised down compared with our September press release.

Compared with September 2018, the SA index increased 3.5%. The index is up 4.1% year-to-date compared with the same period last year.

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 114.8 in August, 7.5% below the August level (124). In calculating the index, 100 represents 2015.

Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing 70.2% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 10.77 billion tons of freight in 2017. Motor carriers collected $700.1 billion, or 79.3% of total revenue earned by all transport modes.

ATA calculates the tonnage index based on surveys from its membership and has been doing so since the 1970s. This is a preliminary figure and subject to change in the final report issued around the 5th day of each month. The report includes month-to-month and year-over-year results, relevant economic comparisons, and key financial indicators.

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CMV market trifecta: Sales of used trucks decline m/m, y/y ytd

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September marks the first time since the fall of 2012 that the used truck industry has seen average prices fall month-over-month for three straight months. (The Trucker file photo)

COLUMBUS, Ind. — Preliminary used Class 8 volumes (same dealer sales) fell 5% month-over-month in September, according to the latest preliminary release of the “State of the Industry: U.S. Classes 3-8 Used Trucks” published by ACT Research.

Additionally, the report indicated that longer-term comparisons yielded a 17% decline compared to September 2018, as well as a year-to-date drop of 19%, the 11th consecutive contraction for both time period comparisons.

Other data released in ACT’s preliminary report included sequential comparisons for September 2019, which showed that average prices and average age fell 3% each, while average miles climbed 5%.

ACT’s Classes 3-8 Used Truck Report provides data on the average selling price, miles, and age based on a sample of industry data. In addition, the report provides the average selling price for top-selling Class 8 models for each of the major truck OEMs – Freightliner (Daimler); Kenworth and Peterbilt (Paccar); International (Navistar); and Volvo and Mack (Volvo). This report is utilized by those throughout the industry, including commercial vehicle dealers to gain a better understanding of the used truck market, especially as it relates to changes in near-term performance.

“September marks the first time since the fall of 2012 that the used truck industry has seen average prices fall month-over-month for three straight months,” said Steve Tam, vice president at ACT Research. “September also has the distinction of being the first time since mid-2017 that prices have fallen year-over-year for two consecutive months. From our perspective, there are two factors at work. Demand is falling, as evidenced by lower sales volumes, and supply is on the rise.”

ACT Research is a publisher of commercial vehicle truck, trailer, and bus industry data, market analysis and forecasts for the North America and China markets. ACT’s analytical services are used by all major North American truck and trailer manufacturers and their suppliers, as well as banking and investment companies.

ACT has scheduled its 62nd seminar for February 11-13, 2020. It will feature trucker, electrification and economic panels, as well as discussions on near-term demand of North American commercial vehicle markets and the pending impact of electrification on the market in the near future.

A commercial vehicle database workshop is also being planned in conjunction with this semi-annual event. Click here for seminar information.

For information about other ACT Research products and services, visit www.actresearch.net.

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At 0.3% dip, September retail sales drop by largest amount in seven months

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The overall economy grew at a 2% annual rate in the April-June quarter with much of that strength coming from a 4.6% surge in consumer spending, which accounts for about 70% of economic activity. (© 2019 FOTOSEARCH)

WASHINGTON — Retail sales dropped in September by the largest amount in seven months, possibly signaling that rising trade tensions and turbulent markets are having an impact on consumer spending.

Retail sales fell 0.3% last month following a 0.6% gain in August, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. It was the first decline since a 0.5% drop in February.

Retail sales are important to the trucking industry because trucks carry an estimated 75-80% of the merchandise sold at retail outlets.

Consumer spending was strong in the spring and economists had been counting on continued strength to protect the U.S. economy as it is buffeted by the fallout from President Donald Trump’s trade war with China.

The spending decline in October, which was unexpected, was influenced by special factors including a big 0.7% decline in sales at gasoline stations, a decline that likely reflected falling gas prices during the month.

The overall economy grew at a 2% annual rate in the April-June quarter with much of that strength coming from a 4.6% surge in consumer spending, which accounts for about 70% of economic activity.

That spending pace had been expected to slow in the July-September quarter but still remain strong enough to support economic growth near the 2% rate seen in the spring.

But some economists are worried that a slowing global economy and the adverse impact of the U.S.-China trade war could slow overall growth so much that the country could see an increasing risk of a recession ending the current record-long U.S. expansion, which began in June 2009.

“It looks like the trade war has claimed yet another victim, in addition to diminished business confidence and reduced investment spending, … consumers are starting to chicken out,” said Chris Rupkey,  chief financial economist at MUFG in New York.

Many economists said the disappointing retail sales performance would make it more likely that the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates in October for a third time this year to buy more insurance against a recession when they meet later this month.

Michael Pearce, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics, said while there were special factors affecting the weak September sales performance, the report contained clear signs that consumption growth is slowing.

He said the report was consistent with his view that the overall economy will continue to slow to a rate of just 1% by the final three months of this year. He said that will prompt the Fed to cut rates again but not until the December meeting.

In addition to the drop in gasoline sales, sales of autos fell 0.9% in September after a solid 1.9% increase in August.

Sales at department stores were down 1.4% while sales at general merchandise stores, which include chain retailers such as Walmart and Target, fell 0.3%.

Sales also dropped at hardware stores, grocery stores and sporting goods stores. Clothing stores, restaurants and health care stores all saw increases.

Sales in a retail control group which focuses on key components that go into computations of GDP were unchanged in September after a 0.3% gain in August.

 

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