Truck drivers see orders, miles fall in newest U.S. slowdown sign, Auto Information, Automobilnews
By Stephanie Kelly and Jessica Resnick-AultAt a truck cease in Ridgefield, New Jersey, driver Paul Richards opinions a pocket book the place he tracks miles pushed and what he’s hauling. His paycheck is down about 25 % from the identical interval a yr in the past, and his weekly miles have dropped as effectively.
“This hasn’t been an excellent week,” mentioned Richards, who carries constructing supplies and recycled items by the U.S. Northeast. “Final week wasn’t, both.”
Throughout america, drivers, regional operators and trade officers say the $700 billion U.S. trucking sector slipped in late 2018, with the autumn persevering with into this yr. Whereas the decline in freight charges and hauling doesn’t counsel america is headed right into a recession, that softness is in step with slippage within the economic system as an entire.
The results have been uneven nationwide, with weaker orders and miles within the U.S. Midwest and Southeast than on the West Coast, economists and regional officers mentioned.Trucking accounts for 70 % of U.S. cargo tonnage, and is vital to supplying the manufacturing, building and retail sectors, all of which confirmed sluggishness within the first quarter. The most typical components for the decline embody the U.S.-China commerce battle and weak point within the Farm Belt.
An ACT Analysis index of truck service volumes that surveys about 60 fleets crossed into adverse territory in November for the primary time since July 2016. It briefly returned to constructive territory in January however dipped once more in February. It matches forecasts for a comfortable first quarter for U.S. gross home product, which is anticipated to come back in at 1.eight % development, in line with Reuters polling.
“Clearly, the economic system is slowing down,” Kenny Vieth, president of ACT Analysis, mentioned in a current interview. “When the economic system moderates, the trucking trade might be exceptionally worse than the general economic system due to the deep cyclical pattern that characterizes the trade.”
To make sure, one other indicator, the American Trucking Associations tonnage index, is at a wholesome degree at 117.4, nonetheless far above recession-era ranges between 2008 and 2012, when it remained under 90.
The trade’s softness isn’t uniform nationwide. Reuters spoke to 47 out of 50 state trucking associations, and of people who responded, 16, together with Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio and Tennessee, mentioned exercise had slowed. One other 16 mentioned there was little change, and the remainder couldn’t say a technique or one other.
Shipments within the Midwestern and Southeastern United States have been hit tougher than different areas, in line with Bobby Holland, vp and director of Minneapolis-based U.S. Financial institution Freight Knowledge Options. Within the Midwest, export tariffs on crops have damage agricultural gross sales, and auto manufacturing can also be moderating, he mentioned.
Neal Kedzie, president of the Wisconsin Motor Carriers Affiliation, mentioned exercise began to sluggish on the finish of 2018. Brokers had been connecting trucking corporations generally known as carriers with requests from those that wanted to haul freight. Now, although, carriers are beginning to attain out to brokers to seek out masses.
“Carriers are having to do extra looking out on their very own versus the brokers, who (earlier than) had a lot to ship that they could not discover sufficient vans,” Kedzie mentioned.
Northeast shipments have been sturdy final yr, U.S. Financial institution mentioned, however state officers in Maine, Connecticut and Rhode Island all advised Reuters that early 2019 has been weaker.
A yr in the past, Larry Hobson was driving 14 hours a day hauling refrigerated meals from Tennessee to New England. Now he’s working eight or 9 hours a day, and his paycheck has dropped by about $1,000 per week due to the lower.
“I’m rather a lot much less busy,” he mentioned at a service middle in Darien, Connecticut.
Spot whole charges for freight have slumped as effectively, averaging $1.85 per mile in March, in line with DAT Options, a freight change firm. That is the lowest seasonally since 2017.
That weak point is beginning to present up in firm outcomes. In mid-March, Chattanooga, Tennessee-based Covenant Transportation Group Inc warned of weak first-quarter outcomes, saying common freight income per tractor was down 5 % in early 2019 from the year-ago interval, with common miles down greater than 11 %.
“The truckload freight setting has been weaker this yr from late January by mid-March,” CEO David Parker mentioned in a press release final month. Covenant shares are down greater than 20 % within the final six months.
Analysts have lowered quarterly per-share estimates for J.B. Hunt Transport Providers Inc, Covenant and repair firm Knight-Swift Transportation Holdings Inc by 9 %, 40 % and 5 %, respectively, in line with Refinitiv Eikon information.
“There isn’t any doubt that now we have been seeing a deceleration in volumes,” mentioned Bob Costello, chief economist for the American Trucking Associations (ATA). “This is a sign that the economic system is decelerating.”