The American Trucking Associations’ advance seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index declined 0.2% in August after falling a revised 0.8% in July 2011. July’s decrease was less than the 1.3% ATA reported on August 23, 2011.

Compared with August 2010, SA tonnage was up a solid 5.2%. In July, the tonnage index was 4.5% above a year earlier.

The latest drop put the SA index at 114.4 (2000=100) in August, down from the July level of 114.6.

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 123.8 in August, which was 10.9% above the previous month.

“Freight has been going sideways for much of this year, but it isn’t falling significantly either, which suggests the U.S. economy just might skirt another recession,” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said.

Anecdotally, Costello noted carriers handling as much freight as they can.

“In part, this is due to less industry supply. The number of trucks operated by the truckload industry is still down about 12% from the height in late 2006, yet tonnage levels are about the same as in late 2006. Additionally, most carriers are finding it very difficult to hire new truck drivers, which mean they can’t add too many trucks.”