ATA Truck Tonnage Index jumps 2.7% in November

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) advance seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 2.7% in November 2009, following a 0.2% contraction in October.

This latest gain boosted the SA index from 103.6 (2000=100) in October to 106.4, its highest level in a year. The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 100.8 in November, down 8.0% from October.

Compared with November 2008, SA tonnage fell 3.5%, which was the best year-over-year showing in 12 months. In October, the index was down 5.2% from a year earlier.

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said tonnage is moving in the right direction. “Slowly, but surely, truck freight has started the recovery process and November’s solid increase is a very positive sign,” Costello said. He said November’s tonnage levels were pushed higher by improved economic activity, as well as by an inventory correction that is near completion.

“Truck freight had been hurt by both slow economic output and bloated inventories; however, we now have evidence that the inventories are in much better shape, which will not be such a drag on truck freight volumes,” he said, though he continued to be cautious about the future. “While the economy and trucking is improving, the industry should not get overly excited about the sizeable increase in November. I continue to believe that both the economy and truck tonnage will exhibit starts and stops in the months ahead, but the general trend should be for moderate growth.”

Trucking serves as a barometer of the US economy, representing nearly 69% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 10.2 billion tons of freight in 2008. Motor carriers collected $660.3 billion, or 83.1% of total revenue earned by all transport modes.

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