Tuesday, December 29, 2009

ATA Trucking Tonnage Index Increases in November

by Bill McBride on 12/29/2009 04:40:00 PM

From the American Trucking Association: ATA Truck Tonnage Index Jumped 2.7 Percent In November

Truck Tonnage Click on graph for slightly larger image in new window.

The American Trucking Associations’ advance seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 2.7 percent in November, following a 0.2 percent contraction in October. The latest gain boosted the SA index from 103.6 (2000=100) in October to 106.4, its highest level in a year. The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 100.8 in November, down 8.0 percent from October.

Compared with November 2008, SA tonnage fell 3.5 percent, which was the best year-over-year showing in twelve months. In October, the index was down 5.2 percent from a year earlier.

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said that tonnage is moving in the right direction. “Slowly, but surely, truck freight has started the recovery process and November’s solid increase is a very positive sign,” Costello noted. He said that November’s tonnage levels were pushed higher by improved economic activity, as well as by an inventory correction that is near completion. “Truck freight had been hurt by both slow economic output and bloated inventories; however, we now have evidence that the inventories are in much better shape, which will not be such a drag on truck freight volumes.” Costello continued to be cautious about the future though. “While the economy and trucking is improving, the industry should not get overly excited about the sizeable increase in November. I continue to believe that both the economy and truck tonnage will exhibit starts and stops in the months ahead, but the general trend should be for moderate growth.”
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Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing nearly 69 percent of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods.
The economy fell off a cliff in September 2008, so the year-over-year comparisons are getting easier. As ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello noted, trucking benefited from the inventory correct, and he believes that is nearing completion - and trucking will likely "exhibit starts and stops" until there is a pickup in domestic end demand.

Note: I think this is the highest level since January, unless January was revised down.