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Truck tonnage is an excellent barometer of economic health.  Trucking represents 70% of all modes of domestic freight transportation.  Last months figures were alarming to say the least.  Truck tonnage is a key leading economic indicator and it’s unlikely that we’ll see any sustained advance in the economy until trucking begins to see a rebound.  As of now they are cautiously optimistic about the second half of the year:

The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index plunged 11.1 percent in December 2008, marking the largest month-to-month reduction since April 1994, when the unionized less-than-truckload industry was in the midst of a strike. December’s drop was the third-largest single-month drop since ATA began collecting the data in 1973. In December, the seasonally adjusted tonnage index equaled just 98.3 (2000 = 100), its lowest level since December 2000.  The not seasonally adjusted index edged 0.6 percent higher in December.

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said the December reading confirms that the United States is in the thick of a recession.  “Motor carrier freight is a reflection of the tangible-goods economy, and December’s numbers leave no doubt that the United States is in the worst recession in decades,” Costello said. “It is likely truck tonnage will not improve much before the third quarter of this year. The economy is expected to contract through the first half of 2009 and then only grow slightly through the end of the year.”