Monthly tonnage down in March

user-gravatar Headshot
Updated Jan 13, 2010

Year-over-year index fell 12.2 percent

The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index fell 4.5 percent in March, marking the first month-to-month decrease of 2009. The gains during the previous two months, which totaled 4.5 percent, were erased with March’s drop. February’s increase was revised down to 1.5 percent.

In March, the SA tonnage index equaled just 101.4, which is its lowest level since March 2002. The fleets did report higher volumes than in February, as the not-seasonally-adjusted (NSA) index increased 10.2 percent, but that is well below the 15 to 20 percent range that NSA tonnage usually rises from February to March. In March, the NSA index equaled 104.7.

Compared with March 2008, tonnage contracted 12.2 percent, which was the second-worst year-over-year decrease of the current cycle. In December 2008, the largest year-over-year contraction, tonnage dropped 12.5 percent from a year earlier.

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said he wasn’t too surprised at March’s reading. “Many fleets were telling us during March that freight was getting a little better,” Costello said. “The problem is that freight should be significantly better in March, which is why the seasonally adjusted index fell. While the industry is desperate for some positive news, it is unfortunate that March’s data suggests the industry has not hit bottom just yet.”

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.

NAFTA trade plummets in February
The 30.9 percent decline is the largest on record

Trade using surface transportation between the United States and its North American Free Trade Agreement partners Canada and Mexico was 30.9 percent lower in February 2009 than in February 2008, dropping to $47.9 billion, the biggest year-to-year percentage decline on record, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics of the U.S. Department of Transportation. February was the fourth consecutive month with a yearly decline of greater than 13 percent. During the first two months of 2009, the value of surface trade dropped 29.1 percent compared to the first two months of 2008.

U.S.-Canada surface transportation trade totaled $29.8 billion in February, down 33.8 percent compared to February 2008. U.S.-Mexico surface transportation trade totaled $18.1 billion in February, down 25.7 percent compared to February 2008.

Small Business Administration on June 15 will begin guaranteeing America’s Recovery Capital (ARC) interest-free loans to small businesses suffering financial hardship due to the economic recession. ARC loans are deferred-payment loans of up to $35,000 available to established, viable, for-profit small businesses that need short-term help to make their principal and interest payments on existing qualifying debt. More information will be available at

Class 8 total net orders for all major North American OEMs totaled 7,935 units in April, down 9 percent from March 2009 and 57 percent below April 2008, according to preliminary data released by FTR Associates (

CK Commercial Vehicle Research ( reported that its Fleet Equipment Buying Index for the second quarter improved to 93.3 from 75.8 in the first quarter. In April, 48 percent of respondents planned to place orders for power units in the next three months, and 38 percent planned to place orders for trailers in that time period. In the previous quarter, 44 percent planned power-unit purchases, and only 30 percent planned to buy trailers.

U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General is auditing USDOT’s implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which designated more than $48 billion for infrastructure investments.

The most stolen cargo is food, and cargo theft is most likely to occur at a truckstop during a weekend, an analysis released by LoJack Supply Chain Integrity ( found.