The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index decreased 0.9 percent in September, marking the third consecutive month-to-month drop. The index fell 1.6 percent in August and 0.9 percent in July. In September, the seasonally adjusted tonnage index equaled 112.6 (2000 = 100), its lowest level since October 2007. The not seasonally adjusted index increased 1.1 percent to 116.3 in September.
For the third quarter, the seasonally adjusted index contracted 1.2 percent compared with the second quarter, equating to a 4.8 percent annualized rate decrease.
The seasonally adjusted index was just 0.8 percent higher compared with September 2007. While the index rose year-over-year because of weak 2007 volumes, it is quickly falling toward negative territory.
ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said the recent decreases in truck tonnage are consistent with a recession. Costello forecasts a recession beginning in the 2008 third quarter and through the first quarter of 2009.
“I anticipate truck freight volumes to continue to fall before they improve,” said Costello. “It is a tough freight market, and there is nothing on the horizon that says this will change anytime soon.”
Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing nearly 70 percent of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods.
Trucks hauled 10.7 billion tons of freight in 2006. Motor carriers collected $645.6 billion, or 83.8 percent of total revenue earned by all transport modes.