Truck Tonnage Indicator Inches Higher Despite Industry Doldrums

One of the indicators I follow to gauge the health of the US economy is the American Trucking Association's Truck Tonnage Index. During September truck tonnage increased 1.7% after falling 2.8% in August. The general trend is that the economy is growing, but just barely. I think one of the other reasons for weak trucking demand is the high cost of oil, which makes rail a more practial mode of transporting goods across country.  From the ATA:
The American Trucking Associations’ advance seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 1.7 percent in September after falling a revised 2.8 percent in August. The latest gain put the SA index at 108.7 (2000=100) in September from 106.9 in August.

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 112.4 in September, down 0.9 percent from the previous month.

Compared with September 2009, SA tonnage climbed 5.1 percent, which was well above August’s 2.9 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 said that truck tonnage over the last few months fits with an economy that is growing very slowly. “While I am glad to report that tonnage grew in September, the fact remains that truck freight volumes leveled off over the summer and early autumn. This is a reflection of an economy that is barely growing.” Costello noted again this month that the trucking industry is significantly smaller than it was prior to the recession, but as a result, is better equipped to deal with slower than normal tonnage growth.


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