The American Trucking Associations' advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 0.8 percent in November, following a 0.2 percent contraction in October. The not seasonally adjusted index decreased 8.5 percent from October to 111.8.
On a seasonally adjusted basis, the tonnage index improved to 112.0 (year 2000 = 100) in November from 111.1 the previous month. The index grew 3.3 percent compared with a year earlier, marking the second year-over-year increase in eight months and the largest gain since January 2005. Year-to-date, the tonnage index was 1.7 percent lower than during the same period in 2006.
ATA Economist Tavio Headley said the November tonnage reading suggests continued volatility and softness in freight volumes, despite the month-to-month and year-over-year gains. Headley noted that every monthly increase in the seasonally adjusted tonnage index, since March, was followed by a contraction the next month.
The slowdown in tonnage volumes is projected to continue into 2008. "Based on the latest economic data and the expected slowdown in the economy over the next few quarters, we anticipate lackluster freight volumes at least through the first half of 2008," Headley said.
Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy because it represents 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.