Tonnage index up 0.3% in July

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The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index rose 0.3 percent in July, marking the first month-to-month increase since March of this year. The not-seasonally adjusted index decreased 2.7 percent from June to 111.0.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, the tonnage index increased to 110.9 in July, which was the highest reading since April. Despite July’s sequential gain, tonnage was down 3.7 percent from a year earlier. Year-to-date, the tonnage index was 2.6 percent lower than the same period in 2006.

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said July’s tonnage reading points to continued softness in the trucking industry, specifically as it relates to the weight of goods shipped. Costello noted, however, that other measures of trucking volumes are not as lackluster. For example, the number of for-hire loads, which ATA publishes in a separate report, increased 0.4 percent during the first half of 2007 on a year-over-year basis.

“The weakness in the residential construction market continues to have a disproportionately larger impact on truck tonnage than the number of loads transported,” Costello said. “Construction freight on average weighs more than general freight. As a result, the weakness in the construction market is having a bigger impact on truck tonnage.”

Several trends indicate a modest 2007 fall freight season. Shippers increasingly spread the peak season over more months, the housing market is expected to remain down, and economists predict only moderate economic growth in the near term, Costello said.

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