Flow of goods down for second straight month
If trucks bring goods to factories, retailers and consumers, what does it mean that the trucks have slowed down?
Likely that growth is slowing down too, according to the Ceridian-UCLA pulse of commerce index, released Wednesday. The index, which measures the volume and location of diesel fuel being purchased along the nation's major thoroughfares, was down 0.5% in September after falling 1.0% in August. That's the first time since January 2009 that the index has experienced a consecutive monthly decline.
"Inventory is stalled on the nation's thoroughfares," said Ed Leamer, director of the UCLA Anderson Forecast. "The good months of growth are seemingly in our rear-view mirror."
The decline indicates that trucks have moved less produce, raw materials and finished goods of late. The index's post-recession peak was in May 2010, at 111.4. It has since fallen to 109.4. The highest the index has reached since 2001 is 118.6, in January 2008.
The index tracks closely with the industrial production index, which has been growing since early 2010. The dip in the pulse of commerce index indicates that industrial production might show some declines soon.
There is some good news, though: The index is up 5.8% from September 2009.
Every region in the country saw diesel consumption fall in September, except for the Mountain region, which saw consumption rise 1.7%, and the East South Central, which grew by 0.5%. The Pacific region shrank by 0.3%.
"October data will be especially telling as this is the peak month for America's trucking industry and a strong prelude to the holiday season," said Craig Manson, senior vice president and index expert for Ceridian.
-- Alana Semuels
Photo: Where have all the trucks gone? Credit: Ryan Holst via Flickr