American Trucking Association Tonnage Index

If there really are green shoots coming up, one of the early places they should be seen is in the American Trucking Association (ATA) Tonnage Index. If retail sales are going to tick up, iof inventories are going to be restocked, it has to be physically delivered.

Only not so much.  The ATA Tonnage Index declined a seasonally adjusted 2.2% in April. This is better than the  4.5% contraction in March, but still negative.

American Truckers Association chief economist, Bob Costello:

“While most key economic indicators are decreasing at a slower rate, the year-over-year contractions in truck tonnage accelerated because businesses are right-sizing their inventories, which means fewer truck shipments,” Costello said. “The absolute dollar value of inventories has fallen, but sales have decreased as much or more, which means that inventories are still too high for the current level of sales.  Until this correction is complete, freight will be tough for motor carriers.”

The rails are no better. The Association of American Railroads (AAR) reports:

“U.S. rail carload traffic in May 2009 fell 24.7 percent”, the worst y/y % decline of the recession. People that believe commodities are soaring because the economy has turned the corner should note that “U.S. rail carloadings fell in May 2009 in all 19 major commodity groups tracked by the AAR, including coal (down 89,134 carloads, or 15.8 percent); motor vehicles and equipment (down 35,674 carloads, or 52.3 percent); and metals and metal products (down 33,987 carloads, or 62.7 percent). Carloads of chemicals were down 23,147 carloads (18.3 percent) and carloads of grain were down 21,910 carloads (24.5 percent).”

For just the week ended May 30, the AAR reported the following totals for U.S. railroads: 233,195 carloads, down 26.3 percent from the corresponding week in 2008; intermodal volume of 164,916 trailers and containers, down 19.2 percent; and total volume of an estimated 24.8 billion ton-miles, down 25.1 percent from the equivalent week last year.

Green shoots? Not in the Transports yet . .

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Sources:
ATA Truck Tonnage Index Fell Another 2.2 Percent in April
Connie Heiss
Truckline.com May 26, 2009 4:30 PM
http://www.truckline.com/pages/article.aspx?id=528/%7b8E1C7279-ED27-4C03-B189-CEEEE26BBB12%7d

Rail Traffic Down Sharply in May
AAR.org, 4 Jun 2009
Tom White
http://www.aar.org/NewsAndEvents/PressReleases/2009/06_WTR/060409_Traffic.aspx

See also:
Airlines May Lose $9 Billion This Year, IATA Says
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aQSs9CGd9Auc

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