Truck tonnage jumped 1.4 percent in September, ATA says

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The For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index rose 1.4 percent in September over August, marking an 8.4 percent increase from September 2012’s reading — the largest year-over-year gain since December 2011. The American Trucking Association produces the index monthly, calculating it based on surveys from its members.

Year to date, the index is up 5.4 percent compared to the same period in 2012. The index also rose 1.4 percent in August.

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said he is “pleasantly surprised” by the recent upticks in tonnage, but like last month’s increase, he says part of “tonnage’s robustness” is due to housing construction, auto production and energy output outpacing the rest of the economy in growth. “These industries produce heavier than average freight,” Costello says, leading to “faster growth in tonnage versus a load or shipment measure.”

But, he says, the economy may be stronger than is thought. “The index has now increased in four of the last five months and the year-over-year growth rate has accelerated. Plus, other measures of truck freight volumes, while increasing at a slower pace than tonnage, have also accelerated in recent months,” Costello said. “However, the government shutdown served as a headwind in the fourth quarter.”