Tonnage up in July

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The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index gained 2.1 percent in July, but the increase – which raised the SA index to 101.9 – wasn’t large enough to completely offset the 2.4 percent reduction in June. The not seasonally adjusted (NSA) index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 106.3 in July, down 0.9 percent from June.
Compared with July 2008, SA tonnage fell 10.4 percent, which was the best year-over-year showing since February. June’s 13.6 percent contraction was the largest year-over-year decrease of the current cycle.

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello says truck tonnage will continue to be choppy in the months ahead, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. “It is not unusual for an economic indicator to become volatile before changing direction,” says Costello, who is hopeful that truck tonnage finally has hit bottom, as it has been bouncing around a seven-year low for the last few months.

“While I am optimistic 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 says. “Still, even small gains are better than the February 2008 through April 2009 cumulative tonnage reduction of 15.5 percent.”

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.