National trucking index up, but economist warns against optimism

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 66 views 

A slight increase in the national truck tonnage index in November should not be interpreted as the beginning of a longer trend, according to the economist for the American Trucking Associations.

The ATA said Monday (Dec. 22) that the seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 1.7 percent in November, marking the first month-to-month improvement since June 2008. The index contracted a total of 6.3 percent from June through October.
Also, the seasonally adjusted index declined 1.8 percent compared with November 2007, which was the second straight year-over-year decrease, according to the ATA.
“Don’t let November’s increase in the seasonally adjusted index fool you,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “Freight volumes were down substantially before any seasonality is taken out of the data.

Costello said he expects freight to further weaken as the economy contracts through the first half of 2009.

The ATA report and Costello’s comments are not good news for the thousands employed in the area by Fort Smith-based Arkansas Best Corp. — a less-than-truckload national freight carrier — and Van Buren-based USA Truck Inc.
According to the ATA, trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing nearly 70 percent of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods.