The American Trucking Associations' advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 1.3 percent in June, marking the second consecutive month-to-month gain. The index rose 0.5 percent in May.
The seasonally adjusted tonnage index equaled 116.5 (2000 = 100) in June, which was the highest reading since February 2008 (117.2). The not seasonally adjusted index increased 1.2 percent to 119.9 in June.
The seasonally adjusted index was 5.4 percent higher compared with June 2007, marking its eighth consecutive year-over-year increase. This improvement was the largest year-over-year gain since January 2005, just surpassing the 5.3 percent jump in January 2008.
ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said June's solid tonnage reading matched several anecdotal reports from motor carriers. Despite the uptick, however, he noted that it remains a close call whether the general economy will dip into a recession later this year or if it will only slow significantly.
"It seems that truck tonnage is once again leading the U.S. economy," Costello said. "During the 2000-2001 cycle, trucking pulled out of a recession before the aggregate economy fell into one. Unfortunately, truck tonnage could slow later this year as the overall economy is expected to be quite weak in the fourth quarter and the first quarter of next year."
Costello said that industry capacity has tightened significantly in recent months as high fuel prices continue to take some carriers out of the market. At the same time, carriers have reduced fleet sizes. Some carriers, for example, have taken their trucks out of the U.S. market entirely by selling them to foreign buyers in Eastern Europe and Central and South America. Costello said these trends are likely to continue in the near term.
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.
ATA calculates the tonnage index based on surveys from its membership and has been doing so since the 1970s. This is a preliminary figure and subject to change in the final report issued around the 10th day of the month. The report includes month-to-month and year-over-year results, relevant economic comparisons, and key financial indicators.