The latest increase was the largest month-to-month
gain since a 6.2 percent jump in December 2006. The not seasonally adjusted index fell 8.2 percent from November to 102.7.
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 tonnage index declined 1.4 percent in 2007, following a 1.7 percent drop in 2006.
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.
"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 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.
Trucks hauled 10.7 billion tons of freight in 2006. Motor carriers collected $645.6 billion, or 83.8 percent of total revenue earned by all transport modes.
ATA calculates the tonnage index based on surveys from its membership and has been doing so since the 1970s. This is a preliminary figure and subject to change in the final report issued around the 10th day of the month. The report includes month-to-month and year-over-year results, relevant economic comparisons, and key financial indicators.