For the fourth straight month, the American Trucking Associations' (ATA) advanced For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index registered an increase. A streak of this length hasn't been seen since 2011, prompting some speculation the industry could be rebounding. The index rose 0.6 percent in February after revised numbers revealed a 1 percent jump in January. Year-over-year numbers are also up 4.2 percent, indicating the industry could continue to see more growth in the coming months.
While many in the industry are pleased with the continued strong performance, some have voiced concerns the upward trend won't last.
"Fitting with several other key economic indicators, truck tonnage is up earlier than we anticipated this year," said Bob Costello, ATA chief economist. "While I think this is a good sign for the industry and the economy, I'm still concerned that freight tonnage will slow in the months ahead as the federal government sequester continues and households finish spending their tax returns. A little longer term, I think the economy and the industry are poised for a more robust recovery."
Agility could contribute to new trucking gains
According to Bloomberg, the transportation industry has done well partially due to the declining popularity of brokers for trucking services. With the economy recovering and drivers being required to complete more deliveries and pickups, working directly with transportation companies allows hiring businesses more agility should they need to change routes or timeframes. This can be especially true if fleet managers are using route optimization software and are able to update routes for drivers just before they head out on the road. While this process previously took some teams hours, vehicle routing software allows managers to complete the task in a greatly reduced amount of time, increasing efficiency and client satisfaction.
Keeping numbers high and improving tonnage
In order to continue this positive trend and keep experiencing gains, the transportation industry as a whole will need to improve processes and speed to ensure consumers don't turn to other forms of transit after a bad experience. Management teams using routing software not only find they can change driver paths quickly in order to accommodate client needs, they can also help ensure drivers are on track and making deliveries and pickups in a timely fashion, something that can reflect positively upon a company and help it boost its reputation, retain customers and gain new business.