Monthly tonnage index down 0.2% in August, year-to-year up 5.2%

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Ata Tonnage

The American Trucking Associations’ advance seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index declined 0.2 percent in August after falling a revised 0.8 percent in July 2011. The latest drop put the adjusted index at 114.4 in August, down from the July level of 114.6.

The nonseasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 123.8 in August, which was 10.9 percent above the previous month. Compared with August 2010, adjusted tonnage was up 5.2 percent; in July, the index was 4.5 percent above a year earlier.

“Freight has been going sideways for much of this year, but it isn’t falling significantly either, which suggests the U.S. economy just might skirt another recession,” said Bob Costello, ATA chief economist, adding that carriers say they are handling as much freight as they can.

“In part, this is due to less industry supply,” he said. “The number of trucks operated by the truckload industry is still down about 12 percent from the height in late 2006, yet tonnage levels are about the same as in late 2006.” Costello also said that most carriers are finding it difficult to hire new truck drivers, “which mean they can’t add too many trucks.”

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.