ATA Truck Tonnage Index rebounds in December

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The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted for-hire Truck Tonnage Index jumped 3.9 percent in December after falling 3.6 percent in November. On a seasonally adjusted basis, the index increased to 110.9 from 106.8 in November.

Still, the index decreased 5.5 percent compared with a year earlier, although this was an improvement from November’s 8.8 percent year-over-year plunge. While subject to revision once the final numbers are released, the index was down 3 percent, compared with 2005. The not-seasonally adjusted index decreased 6.3 percent from November to 99.8.

“Clearly the fall freight season is changing,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “The robust 3.9 percent month-to-month gain in December, the largest monthly increase since a 7.3 percent surge in January 2005, is the result of more shipments later in the fall freight season than what we typically saw in the not-too-distant past. As retailers sell more merchandise in January due to the proliferation of gift card giving, this trend is likely to continue in the years ahead.”

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. “The increase from November was solid, but tonnage was still off 5.5 percent from December 2005,” Costello said. “Nevertheless, it is important to remember that year-over-year comparisons are difficult due to the boom in heavy-construction freight during the fall of 2005 as the rebuilding of the hurricane-struck areas in the Gulf Coast commenced.”

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