ATA Truck Tonnage Index plunged 3.6% in November

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The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted for-hire Truck Tonnage Index plummeted 3.6 percent in November after falling 1.9 percent in October. On a seasonally adjusted basis, the index fell from 110.8 in October to 106.8, the lowest level since late 2003.

The index decreased 8.8 percent compared with a year earlier, marking the largest year-over-year decrease since December 2000. Year-to-date, the index was down 2.8 percent, compared with the same period in 2005. The not-seasonally adjusted index decreased 9.5 percent from October to 106.5.

“November 2006 marked the single worst month for for-hire truck tonnage since the last recession,” says ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “Both the month-to-month and year-over-year decreases indicate that the economic slowdown is in full gear. The most troubling number is the 8.8 percent contraction from November 2005, despite the fact that year-over-year comparisons are difficult due to the very robust volumes during the same month last year.”

Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy because it represents nearly 70 percent of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. “One month certainly doesn’t make a trend, but if we continue to see year-over-year reductions of similar magnitudes in the next couple of months, it could indicate a greater economic slowdown than economists are projecting at this point,” Costello says.

ATA calculates the tonnage index based on surveys from its membership and has been doing so since the 1970s. The baseline year for the index is 2000.