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May 27, 2009 12:00 PM, EDT

April Truck Tonnage Plunges 13.2%

Drop Is Biggest in 13 Years; Reading Is Lowest Since 2001
Tom Biery/Trans Pixs

Truck tonnage decreased 13.2% in April compared with a year ago, falling to the lowest level in seven-and-a-half years, American Trucking Associations said.

The decline in the for-hire seasonally adjusted truck tonnage index was the biggest in 13 years and left tonnage at a reading of 99.2, its lowest level since November 2001.

The index fell 2.2% from March, the second consecutive month-to-month decrease, ATA said late Tuesday.

Without accounting for seasonal adjustment, the index fell 2.9% from March, while March’s tonnage level had dropped 12.2% from a year earlier.

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said trucking is being hit by both the recession and businesses’ efforts to decrease inventory.

“While most key economic indictors are decreasing at a slower rate, the year-over-year contractions in truck tonnage accelerated because businesses are right-sizing their inventories, which means fewer truck shipments,” Costello said.

“Until this correction is complete, freight will be tough for motor carriers,” he said in a statement.

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