The American Trucking Associations’ advance seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index climbed 2.1 percent in December, following a 2.6 percent increase in November. The latest gain boosted the SA index from 106.2 in November to 108.4 in December, its highest level since November 2008. The nonseasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 103 in December, up 2.3 percent from the previous month.
Compared with December 2008, SA tonnage jumped 6.6 percent, which was the first year-over-year increase since September 2008. For all of 2009, the tonnage index was down 8.3 percent, which was the largest annual decrease since a 12.3 percent plunge in 1982.
ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello says that while tonnage jumped again on a month-to-month basis, the rate of increase may slow in the coming months. “The robust tonnage numbers in November and December were aided by better economic growth as well as a positive inventory effect,” Costello says. “However, economic activity is expected to moderate in the current quarter, which will keep a lid on tonnage growth.”
Costello also addressed the year-over-year gain in tonnage, the first in over a year. “While the index was moving toward positive year-over-year readings in recent months, December’s gain was due, in part, to a 7.8 percent plunge a year earlier,” he says. “There is no doubt that the industry is moving the right direction, but the level of freight will not be as strong as the year-over-year increases suggest because of how terrible it was in late 2008 and much of 2009.”
ATA calculates the tonnage index based on surveys from its membership and has been doing so since the 1970s. The report includes month-to-month and year-over-year results, relevant economic comparisons, and key financial indicators.