The American Trucking Associations’ advance seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 2.1% in July. In June, SA tonnage fell 2.4%. July’s gain, which raised the SA index to 101.9 (2000=100), wasn’t large enough to completely offset the reduction in the previous month. The not seasonally adjusted (NSA) index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 106.3 in July, down 0.9% from June.
Compared with July 2008, SA tonnage fell 10.4%, which was the best year-over-year showing since February 2009. June’s 13.6% contraction was the largest year-over-year decrease of the current cycle.’ ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said that truck tonnage will continue to be choppy in the months ahead, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. ‘It is not unusual for an economic indicator to become volatile before changing direction,’ Costello noted. He is hopeful that truck tonnage has finally hit bottom as it has been bouncing around a seven-year low for the last few months. ‘While I am optimistic that the worst is behind us, I just don’t see anything on the economic horizon that suggests freight tonnage is about to rise significantly or consistently,’ Costello said. ‘Still, even small gains are better than the February 2008 through April 2009 cumulative tonnage reduction of 15.5%.’
Note on the impact of trucking company failures on the index: Each month, ATA asks its membership the amount of tonnage each carrier hauled, including all types of freight. The indexes are calculated based on those responses. The sample includes an array of trucking companies, ranging from small fleets to multi-billion dollar carriers. When a company in the sample fails, we include its final month of operation and zero it out for the following month, with the assumption that the remaining carriers pick up that freight. As a result, it is close to a net wash and does not end up in a false increase. Nevertheless, some carriers are picking up freight from failures, and it may have boosted the index. Due to our correction mentioned above, however, it should be limited.
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.
ATA calculates the tonnage index based on surveys from its membership and has been doing so since the 1970s. This is a preliminary figure and subject to change in the final report issued around the 10th day of the month. The report includes month-to-month and year-over-year results, relevant economic comparisons, and key financial indicators. (ATA)