ATA’s Truck Tonnage Index falls for third straight month

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ARLINGTON, Va. — The American Trucking Associations (ATA) advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index decreased 0.1% in June, marking the third consecutive month-to-month drop. Tonnage fell 1.3% in May and has dropped 3.5% since March. The not seasonally adjusted index dropped 3.3% from May to 114.1.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, the tonnage index declined to a seven-month low of 110.5 (2000 = 100) in June from 110.6 the previous month. Compared with a year earlier, tonnage was down 3.4% in June, which is just a slight improvement from the 3.6% year-over-year decrease in May.

ATA chief economist Bob Costello said that while the US government reported the economy grew at a 3.4% annualized rate in the second quarter, that strength did not filter into the transport sector. Our tonnage index fell 1.8% during the second quarter from the first quarter and was 3.2% lower than the same quarter in 2006, he said.

Costello attributed this difference to several trends. First, the so-called goods economy, which is more pertinent for transportation companies and excludes services and adds in imports of goods, unlike the GDP calculation by the government, grew at a slower 2.6% annualized rate in the second quarter compared with the overall growth of 3.4%.

Second, the housing sector continues to be a bigger drag on motor carriers than the economy at large, the ATA reports. Residential investment fell 9.3% during the second quarter, according to Bureau of Economic Analysis. Third, manufacturing production, once adjusted for the weight of the goods instead of the value, continues to contract on a year-over-year basis, according to ATA officials.

These three points in particular lead to a very tough second quarter for the trucking industry, said Costello. Unfortunately, with housing still weakening, the improvement in tonnage during the second half of the year will likely be less than previously thought.

Trucks hauled 10.7 billion tonnes of freight in 2005. Motor carriers collected $623 billion , or 84.3% of total revenue earned by all transport modes.

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