ATA Truck Tonnage Index inches upward

The American Trucking Associations' advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index edged 1.7 percent higher in February 2009, marking the second consecutive month-to-month increase. Still, the gain over the past two months, totaling 4.8 percent, did not even erase the 7.8 percent contraction in December 2008.

In February, the seasonally adjusted tonnage index equaled just 106.5 (2000 = 100), which is still extremely low. Also in February, the fleets reported lower volumes than in January, as the not seasonally adjusted index fell another 2 percent in February on top of January's 4.4 percent drop. In February, the not seasonally adjusted index equaled 95.3.

Compared with February 2008, tonnage contracted 9.2 percent, which was the third-worst year-over-year decrease of the current cycle.

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello was very cautious about reading too much into February's seasonally adjusted month-to-month improvement.

“Tonnage will not fall every month on a seasonally adjusted basis, and just because it rose again in February doesn't mean the economy is on the mend,” Costello said. “Tonnage plunged again on a year-over-year basis, which highlights the current weakness in the freight environment.” He also noted that fleets are still witnessing a tough environment, and there is nothing that suggests freight volumes are about to embark on a sustained recovery.

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