Strategy

Real-time trucking data

A new system allows trucking data to serve as a leading economic indicator.

What do truckers and economists have in common? At first guess most would venture to say not much, but a new economic index that tracks trucking fuel consumption across the U.S. begs to differ. Ceridian, provider of resource and payment solutions to businesses around the world, has recently teamed up with UCLA economists to launch the Ceridian-UCLA Pulse of Commerce Index.

Ceridian’s ComData service provides electronic payment card management for the transportation industry. As truckers move raw materials, goods-in-process and finished goods across the U.S., their real-time movement and diesel fuel consumption is tracked. Crisscrossing every interstate as they make their way to shipping ports, manufacturing centres and national borders, drivers encounter one or more of the 7,000 Ceridian sensors. The precision of the data reveals a detailed picture of the current state of consumption and the possible direction of the U.S. economy.

Compared to the Federal Reserve’s Industrial Production Index, which measures the output of various sectors based on survey data, the PCI measures inventory of goods in motion, in real-time. Just how accurate is the PCI? In late 2007, well before other indexes began to drop, the PCI started to stall and fell radically in the first half of 2008. The index is issued monthly, can be broken down by region and is seasonally adjusted to compensate for the increase of transported goods around holidays. The April PCI (the most recent at press time) fell slightly by 0.3% but marked the fifth straight month of year-over-year growth, suggesting the anticipated recovery will be slow and steady.