The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index climbed 3 percent in January 2009, marking only the second month-to-month increase in the last seven months. Still, the gain did little to erase the revised 7.8 percent contraction in December 2008. In January, the seasonally adjusted tonnage index equaled just 104.7 (2000 = 100), its second-lowest level since October 2002. In January, the not seasonally adjusted index fell 4.4 percent from the previous month to 97.2.
ATA recently revised the seasonally adjusted index back five years as part of its annual revision.
Compared with January 2008, the index declined 10.8 percent, which was slightly better than December’s 12.5 percent year-over-year drop.
ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said that there was no reason to get excited about January’s 3.0 percent month-to-month improvement. “Tonnage will not fall every month, and just because it rises every now and then doesn’t mean the economy is on the mend,” Costello said. “Furthermore, tonnage is contracting significantly on a year-over-year basis, which is highlighting the current weakness in the freight environment.” Costello also noted that any sustained recovery in tonnage is still months away.
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.