Dec 24, 2008 3:39 PM
The American Trucking Associations (ATA) advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 1.7 percent in November, marking the first month-to-month improvement since June 2008.
The index contracted a total of 6.3 percent from June through October. In November, the seasonally adjusted tonnage index equaled 110.7 (2000 = 100). In October, the index was at the lowest level in five years.
ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello cautioned against misinterpreting the slight increase in freight tonnage as indicative of the beginnings of an economic turnaround. Freight volumes remain weak. "Donít let Novemberís increase in the seasonally adjusted index fool you," he said. "Freight volumes were down substantially before any seasonality is taken out of the data."
Tonnage was also off from year-over levels showing the weakness in freight. Costello said he expects freight to further weaken as the economy contracts through the first half of 2009.
Despite the increase in the seasonally adjusted measure, the freight outlook remains bleak. Specifically, the not seasonally adjusted index, which measures the change in actual tonnage volumes reported by the fleets before any seasonal adjustments, fell 15.4 percent to 101.3 in November.
The seasonally adjusted index declined 1.8 percent compared with November 2007, which was the second straight year-over-year decrease.
ATA noted that each month, the association 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," ATA said. "This assumes 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 US 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 noted.
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