The American Trucking Associations’ advance seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index rose 0.8 percent in October after increasing a revised 1.8 percent in September. The latest gain put the seasonally adjusted index at 109.7 (2000=100) in October from 108.9 in September.
The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 112.9 in October, up 0.3 percent from the previous month.
Compared with October 2009, seasonally adjsuted tonnage climbed 6.0 percent, which was better than September’s 5.3 percent year-over-year gain. Year-to-date, tonnage is up 6.1 percent compared with the same period in 2009.
ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello says that truck tonnage changes over the last couple months shows there are some bright spots in the U.S. economy. “October tonnage levels were at the highest level in three months, even after accounting for typical seasonal shipping patterns. These gains fit with reports out of both the manufacturing and retail sectors and show there is a little bit of life in this economic recovery. ”
Each month, ATA asks its membership the amount of tonnage each carrier hauled, including all types of freight. The indexes are calculated based on those responses. The sample includes an array of trucking companies, ranging from small fleets to multi-billion dollar carriers. When a company in the sample fails, we include its final month of operation and zero it out for the following month, with the assumption that the remaining carriers pick up that freight. As a result, it is close to a net wash and does not end up in a false increase. Nevertheless, some carriers are picking up freight from failures, and it may have boosted the index. Due to our correction mentioned above, however, it should be limited.
Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing 68 percent of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 8.8 billion tons of freight in 2009. Motor carriers collected $544.4 billion, or 81.9 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.