Navigating the Sea of Stats

July 1, 2006
There is an endless supply of information out there to help a company effectively manage itself. But where is it? And how can it be found?

THERE IS AN ENDLESS supply of information out there to help a company effectively manage itself. But where is it? And how can it be found?

Steve Latin-Kasper, the National Truck Equipment Association's director of market research, addressed those questions in his seminar, “How to Get the Right Data to Make the Right Decisions.”

Latin-Kasper said one of the best sources is quite simple: the NTEA. He listed these seven data sources:

  • Work Truck and Vocational Data Source (registration units.)

    This includes straight truck by body type, GVWR, and state, tractor by trailer body type, GVWR, and state, and fleet size by application market and state.

    “This is a government publication that many of our old members didn't even know existed,” he said. “It's an outstanding source of information. We get a number of CD ROMs of the entire database, which can be ordered at our online store.”

  • Annual Manufacturers Shipments Survey.

    This offers truck equipment sales numbers and units for 160 product lines.

    “It's the only source of data that gives product-level information,” he said. “So if you want to find out how many liftgates sold in 2005, participate in the survey. The NTEA doesn't send out surveys because it has nothing else to do. There's always a reason for a survey. If you have an interest in it, you should participate. That's one of the best ways to get good data.”

  • Application Market by State and Metropolitan Area Report.

    This details potential sales of truck equipment and can be modified to reflect individual product lines.

    “For 99 different application markets — the truck users — this tells the total value of truck equipment that application market bought,” he said. “For 50 states and 315 metropolitan areas, you can find out the sales potential of truck equipment in those 99 application markets. It's an amazingly powerful econometric model. It's a model because it's not just one set of data. If you manufacture cranes or liftgates, you can modify the model so that it represents your product segment — not the entire industry.”

  • OEM/Body Manufacturers Monthly Statistics.

    This offers retail sales and factory shipments of commercial truck chassis and bodies by GVWR in units.

    “This is for OEMs and manufacturers of bodies,” he said. “Anybody who produces bodies and is a member of NTEA can participate in the program. But most who produce bodies aren't participating.”

  • Affiliate Division Quarterly Statistics Program.

    This details programs specifically for manufacturers of ambulance, van and service bodies, buses, and truck-mounted crane.

  • Economic Outlook Conference (annual update of industry performance and forecasts, held the first week of October in Chicago).

  • Work Truck and Trailer Industry Outlook.

This is published in the NTEA News quarterly, providing industry and application market data along with a forecast based on analysis of leading indicators.

He said the Vehicle Inventory and Use Survey lists data for straight trucks registered in the United States in all eight classes — pickup, light van other than minivan, armored, beverage, concrete mixer, concrete pumper, crane, curtainside, dump, flatbed, stake, platform, low boy, pole, logging, pulpwood or pipe, service (utility), street sweeper, tank (dry bulk), tank (liquids or gases), tow/wrecker, trash, garbage, or recycling, vacuum, and van (basic enclosed).

It also will list an application description and the number of trucks registered in fleets of one, and fleets of two to six.

He said the Annual Manufacturers Shipments Sales Survey deals with 160 different product lines, and is “the only source of data that gives you product-level segmentation on an annual basis and provides you with dollar values to go along with unit values. Others are strictly units or strictly dollars. The only way to get it is to be an NTEA member and participate in the survey.”

He said all the formulas are built into the CD ROM, and “if you only care about liftgates or cranes or whatever, you can modify this model so it represents your product line.”

The NTEA's Monthly Statistics Program offers the percent change and the actual units produced each month for each chassis type by GVWR. Latin-Kasper said that right now, data isn't published because there aren't enough companies participating.

He also offered the following non-NTEA data sources:

  • Economic Census.

    Census of Manufacturers (industry, product class, and product line data dollars) and Census of Wholesale Trade (industry, kind of business, and commodity line data dollars).

    “The Census of Wholesale Trade is conducted every five years, and it provides benchmark data for market size and share, plus data available nowhere else, such as employee totals, capital expenditures, costs of materials, energy expenditures, establishment counts and more,” he said. “It's the Holy Grail of US economic information.”

  • Annual Survey of Manufacturers.

    This is industry and product class totals only, in dollars.

  • Vehicle Inventory and Use Survey.

    This is truck and tractor registrations by state, including a large number of variables such as body and equipment types and number of lift and drive axles, all of which can be related to each other.

    “It's conducted by the Transportation Division of the Bureau of the Census and they survey actual users every five years,” he said. “The survey is 26 pages. They send 10,000 out. They create a CD ROM. The beauty of that is that you can take any of the variables and relate them to any other variables.”

  • Foreign Trade Data.

    This details exports and imports published separately on DVD monthly, in dollars and units by country.

He said the following are available at

  • Industrial Production and Capacity Utilization.

    This is published monthly, including index for light-, medium-, and heavy-duty trucks and trailers, slowing for cyclical analysis of production and calculation of percent change.

  • Selected Interest Rates.

    These are daily and monthly short- and long-term rates, which can be used as a leading indicator for forecasting.

“Why care about that?” he asked. “Because they're a leading indicator of what's going to happen in this industry. One of the best ways to predict future sales of trucks is to look at the cycle in interest rates. Are interest rates going up or down?”

Available at

  • Federal Highway Administration Annual Statistics.

    This offers annual registration units by state with detail for trucks, tractors, and trailers. It splits government-owned vehicles from the private sector and allows for calculation of national totals and an annual update to the VIUS, which includes only private-sector vehicles in its survey.

Go to

  • Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

    Numerous monthly statistical programs include data on freight shipped by mode, allowing for calculation of percent change in freight shipped by all modes.

“Are trains gaining market share from trucks? Are trucks gaining market share from trains? It breaks down the transportation sector beyond trucks.”

Other work truck and trailer industry data sources:

  • Other trade associations.

    For application market data, including state government, construction, utilities, rental/leasing, freight forwarding, and many others.

  • Trade magazines.

  • Market information companies such as Polk, ACT, Martin Labbe Associates, Center for Automotive Research, Global Insight, and many others.

    He said the amount of information at is “absolutely enormous. You couldn't possibly go through it all. You kind of have to know what you're looking for before you get in here. The easiest way to navigate is “Subjects A to Z.”

About the Author

Rick Weber | Associate Editor

Rick Weber has been an associate editor for Trailer/Body Builders since February 2000. A national award-winning sportswriter, he covered the Miami Dolphins for the Fort Myers News-Press following service with publications in California and Australia. He is a graduate of Penn State University.