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Research indicates 14% rise in Class 8 sales in December over previous month

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Research indicates 14% rise in class 8 sales in december over previous month
Both FTR Transportation Intelligence and ACT Research report that Class 8 sales for December have increased as compared to November but are down 6.5% from December 2018. (The Trucker File Photo)

Preliminary reports from both FTR Transportation Intelligence and ACT Research indicate that December North American Class 8 sales improved as compared to November sales numbers.

ACT Research notes that net orders in December 2019 were 20,000 units, which is up 14% from November and down just 6.5% from year-ago December, as the industry transitions to much easier year-over-year comparisons. Complete industry data for December, including final order numbers, will be published by ACT Research in mid-January.

“Overbuying through 2019 and insufficient freight to absorb the ensuing capacity overhang continued to weigh on the front end of the Class 8 demand cycle in December,” said Kenny Vieth, ACT’s president and senior analyst. “Recalling July and August, orders were down 80% from the corresponding months in 2018. December’s orders brought the full-year 2019 volume to 181,000 units versus 490,100 units in 2018.”

FTR states that fleets are being very cautious in this environment, only ordering what they know they need for the next few months. Orders averaged just under 20,000 units a month for the fourth quarter, basically right at replacement demand. Order rates are expected to stay in this range for the next few months.

Although the December order activity improved 14% month over month, the total was still below the less-than-robust results seen during October and down 7% year over year. Class 8 orders for the past 12 months have now totaled 179,000 units, according to FTR.

“This is as balanced and stable as you are going to see in Class 8 ordering,” noted Don Ake, FTR’s vice president commercial vehicles. “Fleets are ordering trucks according to their standard replacement cycles and for normal delivery cycles. They are not speculating about the future direction of the freight market because there is too much uncertainty. This is a ‘wait and see’ approach.”

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ATA Truck Tonnage Index increased 3.3% in 2019

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Ata truck tonnage index increased 3.3% in 2019
After falling 3.4% in November 2019, the Truck Tonnage Index recovered in December, posting a 4% monthly increase. (courtesy: ATA)

ARLINGTON, Vir. — American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 3.3% in 2019, about half the annual gain in 2018 (6.7%). The increase was the tenth consecutive year in which the tonnage index has risen above the previous year.
The advanced SA For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index rose 4% in December after falling 3.4% in November. In December, the index equaled 118.2 (2015=100) compared with 113.6 in November.
“Last year was not a terrible year for for-hire truck tonnage, and despite the increase at the end of the year, 2019 was very uneven for the industry,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “The overall annual gain masks the very choppy freight environment throughout the year, which made the market feel worse for many fleets. In December, strong housing starts helped advance the index forward.” It is important to note that ATA’s tonnage data is dominated by contract freight.
November’s reading was revised down slightly compared with the December 2019 data. In December 2018, the SA index rose 3%, which was preceded by a 2% year-over-year drop in November.
The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage hauled by the fleets before seasonal adjustment, equaled 112.7 in December, 2% below the November level (115.1). In calculating the index, 100 represents the index from 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.

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ACT Research For-Hire Trucking Index: Rates slip amid strong holiday freight

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Act research for-hire trucking index: rates slip amid strong holiday freight
For-hire index rates slip, but signs of freight recovery in 2020 "encouraging" (©2020 FOTOSEARCH)

COLUMBUS, Ind. – The latest release of ACT’s For-Hire Trucking Index showed improvement in for-hire freight volumes and utilization. The data used in the Index included December. Respectively, the data indicated 55.5 and 52.3 diffusion index readings, both up four points from November on a seasonally adjusted basis. But even as for-hire capacity contracted again, the Freight Rates Index slid to 48.7 in December.
The ACT For-Hire Trucking Index is a monthly survey of for-hire trucking service providers. ACT Research converts responses into diffusion indexes, where the neutral or flat level is 50.
Tim Denoyer, ACT Research’s Vice President and Senior Analyst commented, “We see encouraging signs that the freight downturn is in its late stages and the market will rebalance in 2020. However, the ongoing rate pressure, even as volumes ramped into the holidays, is symptomatic of ongoing excess industry capacity. Our survey respondents clearly get it, and reduced capacity for a sixth straight month, so we can pretty easily deduce that private fleet capacity additions through year-end 2019 are the main factor continuing to pressure for-hire rates.”
The ACT Freight Forecast provides forecasts for the direction of truck volumes and contract rates quarterly through 2020, with three years of annual forecasts 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 twelve months.
In 2019, the average accuracy of ACT’s truckload spot rate forecasts was 98%. The ACT Research Freight Forecast uses equipment capacity modeling and the firm’s economics expertise to provide anticipated freight rates, helping businesses in transportation and logistics management plan with confidence.

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2019 trading performance ended on a sour note for transportation companies

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For major shippers, 2019 ended on a sour note; transportation companies have worst trading performance across market.
Transportation companies are showing the worst performance across the market and trading. Shares in railroad, trucking and ocean shipping companies are selling off. (Courtesy: FotoSearch)

For major shipping companies dealing with trade wars and slowing global growth, conditions appear to have deteriorated as 2019 came to a close.

Transportation companies are the worst performers across the market in trading. Shares in trucking, railroad and ocean shipping companies are selling off.

The trade war between the U.S. and China has taken a toll. Government data showed Friday that China’s economy grew by 6.1% last year, down from 6.6% in 2018, and a multi-decade low. The Trump administration has agreed to cancel planned tariff hikes on additional Chinese imports as part of an interim deal announced this week, and Beijing promised to buy more American farm goods.

Punitive duties already imposed by both sides, however, will stay in place.

JB Hunt Transport Services Inc., a trucking company, on Friday reported profits that fell well short of what industry analysts had expected, according to a survey by Zacks Investment Research. Shares in that company are down 2.7%.

FedEx reported last month that its profit slid 40%, hurt by higher costs, a shorter holiday season and its move to cut ties with Amazon.com. It too, cut its profit expectations.

UPS reports fourth quarter and full year results at the end of the month. Its shares have been falling over the past month and were down in trading as of Friday.

Global shipping and logistics provider Expeditors International said Friday that it expects fourth quarter operating income to fall between $177 million and $183 million.

CEO Jeffrey Musser cited trade disputes and slowing growth for a number of economies. The report comes a day after the railroad CSX reported a 7% decline in the freight it hauled during the final months of the year.

“We’ve seen impacts throughout the year from these market conditions, but the pace at which these changes occurred accelerated dramatically in the fourth quarter,” Musser said. “We know this environment will change over time, as it always has in the past.”

Shares of Expeditors International of Washington Inc., based in Seattle, slumped almost 5%.

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