"The American Trucking Association's advance seasonally adjusted (SA) Truck Tonnage Index climbed 2.1% in December, following a 2.6% increase in November. The latest gain boosted the SA index from 106.2 in November to 108.4 in December, its highest level since November 2008. Compared with December 2008, SA tonnage jumped 6.6%, which was the first year-over-year increase since September 2008. For all of 2009, the tonnage index was down 8.3%, which was the largest annual decrease since a 12.3% plunge in 1982.
ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said that while tonnage jumped again on a month-to-month basis, the rate of increase may slow in the coming months. “The robust tonnage numbers in November and December were aided by better economic growth as well as a positive inventory effect,” Costello noted. “However, economic activity is expected to moderate in the current quarter, which will keep a lid on tonnage growth.”
He also addressed the year-over-year gain in tonnage, the first in over a year. “While the index was moving toward positive year-over-year readings in recent months, December’s gain was due, in part, to a 7.8% plunge a year earlier. There is no doubt that the industry is moving the right direction, but the level of freight will not be as strong as the year-over-year increases suggest because of how terrible it was in late 2008 and much of 2009.”