The American Trucking Associations' advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index fell 3.6% in January after surging a revised 6.2% in December.
ATA recently revised the index back five years, which resulted in a slightly better 2006 than previously reported, although the index was still down for the year. ATA's index fell 1.7% compared with 2005 rather than the originally reported 3% drop. December's tonnage level, meanwhile, actually increased 6.2% instead of a previously reported 3.8%. ATA annually revises the index as part of its calculation for the upcoming year's seasonal factors.
On a seasonally adjusted basis, the tonnage index fell to 110.9 (2000 = 100) in January from 115.1 in December. Additionally, the index decreased 5% compared with a year earlier, marking the seventh consecutive year-over-year decline. The not seasonally adjusted index advanced 6.5% from December to 108.0.
"Tonnage levels have become even more volatile in recent months, fitting with the anecdotal reports from motor carriers," said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. "January was not particularly good, which is highlighted by the tonnage index falling substantially from both December 2006 and January 2006. These reductions also fit with other economic data, including the purchasing managers' index and manufacturing production. The Fed's manufacturing production index, weighted by truck tonnage instead of the value of the goods, fell 1.2% from December and 2.9% from January 2006."
Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy because it represents nearly 70% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods.
Trucks hauled 10.7 billion tons of freight in 2005. Motor carriers collected $623 billion, or 84.3% of total revenue earned by all transport modes.
ATA calculates the tonnage index based on surveys from its membership and has been doing so since the 1970s. This is a preliminary figure and subject to change in the final report issued around the 10th day of the month. The report includes month-to-month and year-over-year results, relevant economic comparisons, and key financial indicators.