Monthly tonnage dives in December

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Updated Jan 13, 2010

Year-over-year index plummets 14.1%

The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index plunged 11.1 percent in December 2008, marking the largest month-to-month reduction since April 1994, when the unionized less-than-truckload industry was in the midst of a strike. December’s drop was the third-largest single-month drop since ATA began collecting the data in 1973.

In December, the seasonally adjusted index equaled just 98.3, its lowest level since December 2000. The nonseasonally adjusted index edged 0.6 percent higher in December. Compared with December 2007, the index declined 14.1 percent, the biggest year-over-year decrease since February 1996. During the fourth quarter, tonnage was down 6.0 percent from the same quarter in 2007.

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello says the December reading confirms that the United States is in the thick of a recession. “Motor carrier freight is a reflection of the tangible-goods economy, and December’s numbers leave no doubt that the United States is in the worst recession in decades,” Costello says. “It is likely truck tonnage will not improve much before the third quarter of this year. The economy is expected to contract through the first half of 2009 and then only grow slightly through the end of the year.”

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

Data shows lower truck orders
Transportation forecasting firm FTR Associates last month released preliminary data showing January Class 8 vehicle total net orders for all major North American OEMs at 7,608 units, down 12 percent from December 2008. The figure includes the United States, Canada, Mexico and exports, and is the weakest January in the 30 years since data was first recorded.

January 2009 Class 8 vehicle net order activity is 66 percent lower than January 2008 and equals an annualized rate of 91,296 units, which would be a significant shortfall over 2008, according to FTR. The annualized order rate over the past three months at 109,992 Class 8 units is marginally better, but still lackluster, the Nashville, Ind.-based forecasting firm reported.

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Final data for January 2009 will be available from FTR later this month. For more information, go to

In Brief
The value of trade using surface transportation between the United States and its North American Free Trade Agreement partners Canada and Mexico was 13.8 percent lower in November 2008 than in November 2007, dropping to $60.7 billion. That’s the biggest year-to-year decline in almost eight years, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

American Trucking Associations released the ATA Driver Compensation Study with data from 2007 and 2008 operations. The study included survey data from 159 motor carriers from across the country in a variety of trucking segments. For more information or to purchase the study, go to or call 866-821-3468.

Averitt Express announced that it would not increase its general LTL rates in 2009. Company officials cited the unique opportunity to build customer loyalty among reasons for the decision, which will affect thousands of shippers whose rates are based on Averitt’s A-Rate tariff.

CK Commercial Vehicle Research said its Fleet Equipment Buying Index for the first quarter of 2009 declined 9 percent from the fourth quarter of 2008. CKCVR said that in January, 44 percent of fleet operators planned to place orders for power units in the next three months.

U.S. Small Business Administration issued a scam alert to small businesses, warning them not to respond to letters falsely claiming to have been sent by SBA asking for bank account information in order to qualify them for federal tax rebates under the Economic Stimulus Act. SBA asks that anyone who receives such a letter report it to the OIG Fraud Line at 800-767-0385 or [email protected].