ATA Truck Tonnage Index dips 0.2% in October

The American Trucking Associations’ advance seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index decreased 0.2% in October 2009, following a 0.3% contraction in September. The latest decline lowered the SA index to 103.6 (2000=100) from the revised 103.8 in September. The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 109.6 in October, up 1.6% from September.

Compared with October 2008, SA tonnage fell 5.2%, which was the best year-over-year showing since November 2008. In September, the index was down 7.3% from a year earlier.

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said the latest reading reflects an economic recovery that is still trying to gain balance, although it is on more solid ground than a year ago.

“Repeating what I said last month, the trucking industry should not be alarmed by the small decreases in September and October,” Costello said. “The economy is behaving as expected, with starts and stops. This is being reflected in truck tonnage, as well as most economic indicators.”

He reiterated that the industry should remain prepared for ups and downs in the months ahead, but the general trend should be modest improvement. “Since consumer spending and manufacturing are not surging, trucking shouldn’t expect robust growth either. However, both retail sales and manufacturing output are exhibiting mild upward trend lines, which is the path I expect truck freight to take,” he said.

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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