ATA Truck Tonnage Index down 3.0% in October

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The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index decreased 3.0 percent in October, marking the fourth consecutive month-to-month drop. The index fell 0.8 percent in September and 1.9 percent in August, ATA announced Monday, Nov. 24.

In October, the seasonally adjusted tonnage index equaled 108.9, its lowest level since October 2003. The not-seasonally adjusted index increased 3.4 percent to 119.9 in October. The seasonally adjusted index declined 1.8 percent compared with October 2007.

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello says that truck tonnage is down a total of 6.3 percent over the last four months, highlighting the current poor state of the U.S. economy. “October should be the busiest month of the year, but instead this October was a fizzle,” Costello says. October is typically a busy month for motor carriers, as retailers begin to take delivery of products for the holiday season. “The latest truck tonnage drop suggests that retailers are very pessimistic for the holiday sales season,” Costello says.

Costello notes that there has been a leveling off of the traditional fall freight season for trucking companies in recent years, where more freight is delivered in November and December, but that this October particularly was weak due to the economic recession. “The cumulative drop in truck tonnage over the last four months suggests that the economy is likely to contract substantially in the fourth quarter, at least 3 percent,” he says.

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.