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 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 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 said. He is hopeful that truck tonnage has finally hit bottom as it has been bouncing around a seven-year low for the past 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,” he said. “Still, even small gains are better than the February 2008 through April 2009 cumulative tonnage reduction of 15.5%.”
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.