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Saia sees tonnage trends advance in Q4

Monthly tonnage growth continues to accelerate on year-over-year comparison

Saia continues to see monthly tonnage increase (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Less-than-truckload carrier Saia (NASDAQ: SAIA) announced Wednesday shipment metrics for the first two months of the fourth quarter that included a November tonnage hike of more than 7%.

On a year-over-year comparison, the Johns Creek, Georgia-based carrier reported that October LTL shipments increased 3.3%, with weight per shipment climbing 2.4%. The result was a 5.7% increase in tonnage for the month. November tonnage was up 7.3%, the combination of a 4.4% increase in shipments and a 2.8% increase in weight per shipment.

Most LTL carriers saw tonnage turn positive year-over-year in August, with growth accelerating in the months since.

Deutsche Bank (NYSE: DB) analyst Amit Mehrotra said he was “encouraged” by the report given the carrier’s “strong pricing actions” during the third quarter, which produced a 6.9% increase in contract renewals.

“While the acceleration in trends is likely attributable to some company-specific dynamics, it also points to an improving industrial economy,” Mehrotra said in a note to clients.

The manufacturing segment can represent more than 80% of total tonnage for some LTL carriers.

The Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), a survey of manufacturing supply executives and gauge of manufacturing activity, remained above the all-important 50% level again in November at 57.5%. A reading above 50% implies expansion in the U.S. manufacturing sector. While the index dipped 1.8 percentage points from October, a seventh straight monthly increase was recorded with the index now in expansion territory for six consecutive months.

Other recent manufacturing data includes industrial production, which rose 1.1% in October but remains 5.6% below the pre-pandemic levels of February. The reading was 5.3% lower year-over-year but better than the prior three months, which all saw 6.7% declines. Capacity utilization in the industrial sector improved to 72.8%, 7 percentage points lower than the long-term average but 8.6 points better than the April low.

Shares of SAIA were down more than 1% in midday trading Wednesday compared to the S&P 500, which was flat.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Todd Maiden.

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Todd Maiden

Based in Richmond, VA, Todd is the finance editor at FreightWaves. Prior to joining FreightWaves, he covered the TLs, LTLs, railroads and brokers for RBC Capital Markets and BB&T Capital Markets. Todd began his career in banking and finance before moving over to transportation equity research where he provided stock recommendations for publicly traded transportation companies.