Truck Tonnage UpHas the Bottom Been Reached?

Seasonally adjusted truck tonnage—with the year 2000 representing 100—December 2007’s jump to 116.7 is the highest level to be reached since January 2006. These figures come from the American Trucking Associations (ATA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index. The jump was 4.1% in December, which followed on the heels of a 0.9% climb in November 2007.

In analyzing the figures, ATA chief economist, Bob Costello, noted that the final two months of 2007 were surprisingly good, particularly in the face of current economic conditions, the financial crises, credit squeeze and weakness within the US housing market.

Although good news is always welcome, before too much is made of these figures it should be noted that overall in 2007, the tonnage was down 1.4%, which followed on the heels of a 1.7% decline in 2006.

"Both the month-to-month and year-over-year increases were very encouraging," said Costello. "However, the supply chain has changed during the fall freight season, leading to better Novembers and Decembers than in the past, so we shouldn't read too much into the recent data at this point."

According to the ATA, trucking is a barometer of the US economy overall since it represents 70% of all cargo carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. The feeling is that despite this boost, truck freight volumes will remain rather “lackluster” during the first half of this year. Costello puts the odds of a recession at 40%.

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