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December Shows Tonnage Gain, Sluggishness Expected in Q1

ARLINGTON, VA — The American Trucking Associations’ (ATA) advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 2.8 percent in December after November's 3.9 percent increase, but it wasn't enough to make 2012 anything to celebrate.

The November/December increase combo amounted to the best gains of 2012, ATA noted, bringing the SA index to a reading of 121.6 in December versus 118.3 in November.

Still, despite the increase, the SA index was off 2.3 percent when compared with December 2011 — the worst year-over-year result since November 2009. "For all of 2012, tonnage was up 2.3 percent," ATA said. "In 2011, the index increased 5.8 percent."

“December was better than anticipated in light of the very difficult year-over-year comparison,” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said. In December 2011, the index increased a whopping 6.4 percent from the previous month.

As for the first quarter of 2013, Costello anticipates more sluggishness in the index.

“As paychecks shrink for all households due to higher taxes, I’m expecting a weak first quarter for tonnage and the broader economy” Costello 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.”

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