January 22, 2013 1:00 PM, EST
Truck Tonnage Declines Year-Over-Year
Month-to-Month, Full-Year Freight Levels Improve
Tom Biery/Trans Pixs

December truck tonnage fell 2.3% from the same month a year earlier but improved from November and for the full year, American Trucking Associations said Tuesday.

Month-to-month, tonnage rose 2.8% in December after a 3.9% surge in November, ATA said in its monthly seasonally adjusted for-hire truck tonnage report. The back-to-back monthly gains were the best of the year.

The not seasonally adjusted index — which represents tonnage actually hauled by fleets — fell 4.9% in December to a reading of 110.3.

December’s year-over-year downturn was the biggest such decline in three years, but the December 2011 reading of 124.4 was the highest reading ever for the tonnage index.

For the full year, tonnage rose 2.3%, following a 5.8% increase in 2011, ATA said.

“December was better than anticipated in light of the very difficult year-over-year comparison,” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said, adding that he anticipates more sluggishness in the index this year, especially early in the year, as the economy continues to face several headwinds.

“As paychecks shrink for all households due to higher taxes, I’m expecting a weak first quarter for tonnage and the broader economy,” he said. “Since trucks account for the vast majority of deliveries in the retail supply chain, any reduction in consumer spending will have ramifications on truck tonnage levels.” 

ATA calculates the tonnage each month based on reports by its member trucking companies.