Fleet Management

Truck Tonnage Index Falls Again, to Lowest Since 2001

May 26, 2009

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The American Trucking Associations' advance seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index fell 2.2 percent in April, after plunging 4.5 percent in March.


April marked the second sequential decrease. In April, the seasonally adjusted tonnage index equaled just 99.2 (2000 = 100), its lowest level since November 2001.

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, was down 2.9 percent from March, to 101.6.

Compared with April 2008, tonnage contracted 13.2 percent, which was the worst year-over-year decrease of the current cycle and the largest drop in 13 years. In March 2009, tonnage dropped 12.2 percent from a year earlier.

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said truck tonnage is getting hit from both the recession and the massive inventory correction that the supply chain is currently undergoing.

"While most key economic indictors are decreasing at a slower rate, the year-over-year contractions in truck tonnage accelerated because businesses are right-sizing their inventories, which means fewer truck shipments," Costello said. "The absolute dollar value of inventories has fallen, but sales have decreased as much or more, which means that inventories are still too high for the current level of sales. Until this correction is complete, freight will be tough for motor carriers." Costello added that truck freight has yet to hit bottom and it could be a few more months before this occurs.

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