One of the nation’s top trucking economists says continued growth in tonnage hauled by the industry is becoming a clear sign that the U.S. economy is not headed back into a recession.
The American Trucking Associations’ seasonally adjusted Truck Tonnage Index increased 0.5% in October after rising a revised 1.5% in September 2011. September’s increase was slightly less than the 1.6% gain ATA reported Oct. 25, 2011.
“Tonnage readings continue to show that economy is growing and not sliding back into recession,” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said in a statement. “Over the last two months, tonnage is up nearly 2% and is just shy of the recent high in January of this year.”
According to the ATA, trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing nearly 68% of tonnage carried in 2008 by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 8.8 billion tons of freight in 2009. Motor carriers collected $544.4 billion, or 81.9% of total revenue earned by all transport modes.
During 2011, the index was down in five of the first 10 months of the reported index.
January: up 3.5%
February: down 2.9%
March: up 1.9%
April: down 0.6%
May: down 2%
June: up 2.6%
July: down 0.8%
August: down 0.2%
September: up 1.5%
October: up 0.5%
The latest gain put the SA index at 116.3 (2000=100) in October, up from the September level of 115.8.
The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 118.5 in October, which was 0.8% below the previous month.
Compared with October 2010, tonnage was up 5.7%. In September, the tonnage index was 5.8% above a year earlier. Further, October’s tonnage reading was just 4.4% below the index’s all-time high in January 2005.
“Manufacturing output has been the primary reason why truck freight volumes are increasing more than GDP. The industrial sector should slow next year, but still grow more than GDP, which means truck tonnage can increase faster than GDP too,” Costello predicted.
For the third consecutive year, national economic uncertainty topped the list of concerns among executives in the trucking industry.
“Worry over the fragility of the economic recovery is exacerbated by an unsettling barrage of bad financial news in Europe, threats to global oil supplies in the Middle East and northern Africa, and a gridlocked domestic political climate,” noted the ATRI report.