American truck tonnage surges to close ’07

ARLINGTON, Va. — Most of the last 12 months in 2007 proved to be depressing for general freight haulers south of the border and international truckers that rely on that market.

However, there were some good signs to finish the year, the American Trucking Associations’ is now reporting. Advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index jumped an impressive 4.1 percent in December 2007, after rising slightly 0.9 percent in November.

The latest increase was the largest month-to-month gain since a 6.2 percent jump in December 2006.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, the tonnage index jumped to 116.7 (2000 = 100) in December, its highest level since January 2006. Tonnage was also up 1.4 percent from a year earlier, marking the first sequential year-over-year increases since May and June 2006. Despite these increases, however, the overall tonnage index declined 1.4 percent in 2007, following a 1.7 percent drop in 2006.

December freight volume was better than expected, but there’s
still a 40 percent chance the US slips into recession, says ATA.

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said the final two months of the year were surprisingly good given the current economic environment, the financial crisis, credit crunch and weak housing market south of the border.

“Both the month-to-month and year-over-year increases were very encouraging,” Costello said. “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.”

Costello places the odds of a recession at 40 percent and believes truck freight volumes will continue to be volatile and lackluster in the first half of 2008.

Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy because it represents nearly 70 percent of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods, notes ATA.

ATA calculates the tonnage index based on surveys from its membership and has been doing so since the 1970s.

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