ATA Truck Tonnage Index sinks 3.8% in October 2012

Nov. 21, 2012
The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index decreased 3.8% in October 2012 after falling 0.4% in September.

The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index decreased 3.8% in October 2012 after falling 0.4% in September. The 0.4% decrease in September was revised from a 0.1% gain ATA reported October 23, 2012.

October’s drop was the third consecutive totaling 4.7%. As a result, the SA index equaled 113.7 (2000=100) in October, the lowest level since May 2011. Compared with October 2011, the SA index was off 2.1%, the first year-over-year decrease since November 2009. Year-to-date, versus the same period in 2011, tonnage was up 2.9%.

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 123.7 in October 2012, which was 7.7% above the previous month.

“Clearly, Hurricane Sandy negatively impacted October’s tonnage reading,” said Bob Costello, ATA chief economist. “However, it is impossible for us to determine the exact impact.”

He noted that a large drop in fuel shipments into the affected area likely put downward pressure on October’s tonnage level since fuel is heavy freight, in addition to reductions in other freight.

“I’d expect some positive impact on truck tonnage as the rebuilding starts in the areas impacted by Sandy, although that boost may only be modest in November and December,” he said. “Excluding the hurricane impacts, I still think truck tonnage is decelerating along with factory output and consumer spending on tangible goods.”

Trucking serves as a barometer of the US economy, representing 67% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 9.2 billion tons of freight in 2011. Motor carriers collected $603.9 billion, or 80.9% of total revenue earned by all transport modes.

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