ATA Truck Tonnage Index fell 0.9% in September

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The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index decreased 0.9 percent in September, marking the third consecutive month-to-month drop. The index fell 1.6 percent in August and 0.9 percent in July.

In September, the seasonally adjusted tonnage index equaled 112.6, its lowest level since October 2007. The not-seasonally adjusted index increased 1.1 percent to 116.3 in September.

For the third quarter, the seasonally adjusted index contracted 1.2 percent compared with the second quarter, equating to a 4.8 percent annualized rate decrease.

The seasonally adjusted index was just 0.8 percent higher compared with September 2007. While the index rose year-over-year because of weak 2007 volumes, it quickly is falling toward negative territory.

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said the recent decreases in truck tonnage are consistent with a recession. Costello forecasts a recession beginning in the 2008 third quarter and through the first quarter of 2009.

“I anticipate truck freight volumes to continue to fall before they improve,” Costello said. “It is a tough freight market, and there is nothing on the horizon that says this will change anytime soon.”

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.