The American Trucking Associations' advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index plunged 3 percent in October, marking the fourth consecutive month-to-month drop.

The index fell 0.8 percent in September and 1.9 percent in August. In October, the seasonally adjusted tonnage index equaled 108.9 (2000 = 100), its lowest level since October 2003. The seasonally adjusted index declined 1.8 percent compared with October 2007.

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said that truck tonnage is down a total of 6.3 percent of the last four months, highlighting how bad the U.S. economy is currently. "October should be the busiest month of the year, but instead this October was a fizzle," said Costello. October is typically a busy month for motor carriers as retailers begin to take delivery of products for the holiday season. "The latest truck tonnage drop suggests that retailers are very pessimistic for the holiday sales season," Costello added.

Costello noted that there has been a leveling off of the traditional fall freight season for trucking companies in recent years, where more freight is delivered in November and December, but that this October was particularly weak due to the economic recession. "The cumulative drop in truck tonnage over the last four months suggests that the economy is likely to contract substantially in the fourth quarter, at least 3 percent."