ATA Truck Tonnage Index fell 2.4% in June

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The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index fell 2.4 percent in June. In May, SA tonnage jumped 3.2 percent. June’s decrease, which lowered the SA index to 99.8 (2000=100), wasn’t large enough to completely offset the robust gain in the previous month. The not seasonally adjusted (NSA) index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 107.3 in June, up 5.2 percent from May.

Compared with June 2008, tonnage fell 13.6 percent, which surpassed May’s 11 percent year-over-year drop. June’s contraction was the largest year-over-year decrease of the current cycle, exceeding the 13.2 percent drop in April. ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said truck tonnage is likely to be choppy in the months ahead.

“While I am hopeful that the worst is behind us, I just don’t see anything on the economic horizon that suggests freight tonnage is about to rise significantly or consistently,” Costello said. “The consumer is still facing too many headwinds, including employment losses, tight credit and falling home values, to name a few, that will make it very difficult for household spending to jump in the near term.”

Costello also noted that inventories, relative to sales, are still too high in much of the supply chain, especially in the manufacturing and wholesale industries. “As a result, this is likely to be the first time in memory that truck tonnage doesn’t lead the macroeconomy out of a recession,” he said. “Today, many new product orders can be fulfilled with current inventories, not new production, thus suppressing truck tonnage.”

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.