Monthly tonnage index down 2.2%, year-to-year down 13.2%

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The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index fell 2.2 percent in April, the second sequential decrease after plunging 4.5 percent in March. In April, the SA tonnage index equaled just 99.2, which is its lowest level since November 2001.

The not seasonally adjusted (NSA) index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, was down 2.9 percent from March. In April, the NSA index equaled 101.6.

Compared with April 2008, tonnage contracted 13.2 percent, which was the worst year-over-year decrease of the current cycle and the largest drop in 13 years. In March 2009, tonnage dropped 12.2 percent from a year earlier. ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello says truck tonnage is getting hit from both the recession and the massive inventory correction that the supply chain currently is undergoing.

“While most key economic indicators are decreasing at a slower rate, the year-over-year contractions in truck tonnage accelerated because businesses are right-sizing their inventories, which means fewer truck shipments,” Costello says. “The absolute dollar value of inventories has fallen, but sales have decreased as much or more, which means that inventories are still too high for the current level of sales. Until this correction is complete, freight will be tough for motor carriers.” Costello added that truck freight has yet to hit bottom and that it could be a few more months before this occurs.

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.