ATA Truck Tonnage Index Rises 1.6% in February

The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 1.6% in February after falling a revised 3.1% in January.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, the tonnage index improved to 113.3 (2000 = 100) in February from 111.5 the previous month. The index decreased 1.7% compared with a year earlier, marking the eighth consecutive year-over-year decline. The not seasonally adjusted index fell 6.8% from January to 101.2.

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said February’s tonnage increase came as a surprise given other economic trends during the month and considering the rough winter weather. He attributed some of the index’s strength, however, to easy comparisons with January because the first month of the year was particularly weak.

“The latest increase from January, as well as the relatively small decrease from a year earlier, while welcomed, is probably not the norm, at least in the short-run,” said Costello. “Freight levels remain challenging, despite some anecdotal reports of better volumes in late March. At this time, however, it is difficult to ascertain whether those reports are due to seasonal blips or an underlying trend. We continue to look to the second half of 2007 for better tonnage volumes. But we shouldn’t expect a robust rebound in freight during 2007.”

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.

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