Tonnage dips 0.2% in October

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The American Trucking Associations’ advance seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index decreased 0.2 percent in October, following a 0.3 percent contraction in September. The latest decline lowered the SA index to 103.6 from the revised 103.8 in September. The nonseasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 109.6 in October, up 1.6 percent from September. Compared with October 2008, SA tonnage fell 5.2 percent, the best year-over-year showing since November 2008. In September, the index was down 7.3 percent from a year earlier.

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello says the latest reading reflects an economic recovery still trying to gain balance, although it is on more solid ground than a year ago. “Repeating what I said last month, the trucking industry should not be alarmed by the small decreases in September and October,” Costello says. “The economy is behaving as expected, with starts and stops. This is being reflected in truck tonnage, as well as most economic indicators.”

Costello reiterated that the industry should remain prepared for ups and downs in the months ahead, but the general trend should be modest improvement. “Since consumer spending and manufacturing are not surging, trucking shouldn’t expect robust growth, either,” he says. “However, both retail sales and manufacturing output are exhibiting mild upward trend lines, which is the path I expect truck freight to take.”