Monthly tonnage index up 1.7%; down 9.2% from last year

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The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index edged 1.7 percent higher in February 2009, marking the second consecutive month-to-month increase. Still, the gain over the past two months, totaling 4.8 percent, did not erase the 7.8 percent contraction in December 2008.

In February, the seasonally adjusted index equaled just 106.5, which still is extremely low. Also in February, fleets reported lower volumes than in January, as the nonseasonally adjusted index fell another 2 percent on top of January’s 4.4 percent drop. In February, the nonseasonally adjusted index equaled 95.3. Compared with February 2008, tonnage contracted 9.2 percent, which was the third-worst year-over-year decrease of the current cycle.

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello was cautious about reading too much into February’s seasonally adjusted month-to-month improvement. “As I said last month, tonnage will not fall every month on a seasonally adjusted basis, and just because it rose again in February doesn’t mean the economy is on the mend,” Costello says. “Tonnage plunged again on a year-over-year basis, which highlights the current weakness in the freight environment.” Costello also noted that fleets still are witnessing a tough environment, and that there is nothing that suggests freight volumes are about to embark on a sustained recovery.

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.