US truck tonnage dips slightly in July

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ARLINGTON, Va. Truck tonnage in the US declined 0.3% in July, marking the first month-to-month drop since April.

It was still 4.4% higher than last July, however, according to the most recent figures released by the American Trucking Associations (ATA). US truck tonnage has now increased year-over-year for nine straight months.

Year-to-date, tonnage is up 3.6% compared to the same period of 2007.

Chief economist Bob Costello said he is not surprised by the decline, as it validated anecdotal reports from member carriers. He warned that tonnage may be volatile in the coming months as the US economy continues to soften. However, he also pointed out that tightening capacity and lower fuel prices could help some carriers survive any downturn in freight volumes.

The ATA notes its truck tonnage index is not skewed by the high number of carrier bankruptcies. In most cases, when a trucking company fails, the freight is picked up by another carrier.

“Therefore, the recent jump in bankruptcies will only have a limited impact on our tonnage readings,” the ATA said in a release. “Specifically, when a company in our sample fails, we include its final month of operation and zero it out for the following month. This assumes the remaining carriers pick up that freight. As a result, it is close to a net wash and does not end up in a false increase. Nevertheless, some carriers are picking up freight from failures, and it may have boosted the index. Due to our correction mentioned above, however, it should be limited.”

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