ATA Truck Tonnage Index fell 1.6% in August

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The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index decreased 1.6 percent in August, marking the largest month-to-month drop since March. Also, the index fell 0.9 percent in July, a downward revision from the 0.3 percent drop initially reported.

In August, the seasonally adjusted tonnage index equaled 113.6, its lowest level since November 2007; the not-seasonally adjusted index decreased 3.4 percent to 115.0 in August.

The seasonally adjusted index was 2.6 percent higher compared with August 2007, marking its 10th consecutive year-over-year increase. The gain was more than one percentage point lower than the improvement in July. Year-to-date, the index was up 3.4 percent compared with the same period in 2007. Tonnage contracted 1.7 percent and 1.5 percent in 2006 and 2007, respectively.

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said freight slowed during July and August preceding an expected slowdown in economic activity, and that year-over-year growth in the index is simply the result of soft tonnage volumes in 2007. “We are forecasting a mild recession later this year and early next year,” Costello said. “Make no mistake about it — freight volumes are weakening.” Because trucking is a leading economic indicator, Costello said trucking eventually will see an improvement before the overall economy.

ATA calculates the tonnage index based on surveys from its membership and has been doing so since the 1970s. The report includes month-to-month and year-over-year results, relevant economic comparisons and key financial indicators. The baseline year is 2000.