Monthly tonnage index up 2.2% in December, year-over-year up 4.2%

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Ata Truck Tonnage Index

The American Trucking Associations’ advance seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 2.2 percent in December after falling a revised 0.6 percent in November. The latest improvement put the adjusted index at 111.6 in December, the highest level since September 2008. In November, the adjusted index equaled 109.2.

The nonadjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 107.2 in December, down 1 percent from the previous month. Compared with December 2009, adjusted tonnage climbed 4.2 percent, which was higher than November’s 3.3 percent year-over-year increase. For all of 2010, tonnage was up 5.7 percent compared with 2009. In 2009, the index plunged 8.7 percent.

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello says December’s improvement fits well with the see-saw pattern that many carriers are reporting. “Fleets continue to tell me that freight volumes are very choppy – up one week, but down the next,” Costello says. “That is a trend that is likely to continue this year as the economy is not growing across the board yet.”

Still, Costello said it was a positive sign for the economy that adjusted tonnage reached the highest level in 27 months. “I continue to expect truck freight tonnage to grow modestly during the first half of 2011 and accelerate in the later half of the year into 2012,” he says.

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.