The American Trucking Associations’ advance seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index decreased 0.3% in September 2009 after increasing 2.1% in both July and August. The latest decline lowered the SA index to 103.9 (2000=100). The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 107.9 in September, up 2% from August.
Compared with September 2008, SA tonnage fell 7.3%, which was the best year-over-year showing since November 2008. In August, the index was off 7.5% from a year earlier.
ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said the latest reading fits with the premise that the recovery will be moderate and choppy. “The trucking industry should not be alarmed by the very small decrease in September,” Costello said. “We took two steps forward in July and August, and this was a miniscule step backward.”
He added that the industry should be prepared for ups and downs in the months ahead, but the general trend should be modest improvement. “Between most economic indicators recovering and less of an overhang in inventories, I’m confident that the industry is still on the road to recovery,” 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.