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Trucking Shipments Signal U.S. Economy Gaining: Chart of Day

Shipments along the nation’s highways continue to rise for U.S. trucking companies, another sign the economic expansion is gathering momentum.

The CHART OF THE DAY shows a 15 percent November rise from a year earlier in the Cass Shipments Index, developed by trucker payment-service company Cass Information Systems Inc. Compared with the prior month, the gauge rose 2.8 percent after a drop in October.

A pickup in consumer spending and the expansion at U.S. factories may underpin the trucking industry heading into 2011. The shipping figures underscore the Federal Reserve’s latest assessment that economic growth was improving with more demand for transportation services.

“All of the transportation industries are looking pretty good,” Chris Christopher, an economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts, said yesterday in an interview. “There’s some momentum building for the economy. It’s not tremendous, but we should have stronger growth than we’ve seen.”

Shares of truck maker Paccar Inc. have increased by 54 percent this year amid expectations of improving demand as haulers, buoyed by increased shipments, replace aging vehicles. Industrywide truck sales are up 15 percent in the U.S. and Canada this year and will grow between 20 percent and 30 percent in 2011, Paccar Chief Executive Officer Mark Pigott said on an Oct. 27 conference call.

“Business conditions are now improving, and freight has recovered more than half of its decline,” Pigott said. “As freight grows, there will be requirements for fleet expansion.”

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