ATA Truck Tonnage Index slips 0.5% in February

The American Trucking Associations advance seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index decreased 0.5% in February 2010 following a revised 1.9% increase in January. The latest drop put the SA index at 108.5 (2000=100), down from 109.1 in January. The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 97.6 in February, down 0.8% from the previous month.

Compared with February 2009, SA tonnage rose 2.6%, which was the third consecutive year-over-year gain. For the first two months of 2010, SA tonnage was up 3.5% versus the same period in 2009. For all of 2009, the tonnage index contracted 8.7%, which was the largest annual decrease since 1982.

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said the February tonnage reading is difficult to interpret because of the severe winter storms that impacted truck freight movements during the month, particularly on the East Coast. However, he remains optimistic about the recovery for the industry.

“I continue to hear from motor carriers that both the demand and supply situations are steadily improving,” he said. “Certainly it will take a while to make up the ground lost during the recession, but the industry is on the path to recovery.”

Costello said he expects to see some volatility on a month-to-month basis throughout this year, but the trend line should be for moderate growth.

Trucking serves as a barometer of the US economy, representing nearly 69% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 10.2 billion tons of freight in 2008. Motor carriers collected $660.3 billion, or 83.1% of total revenue earned by all transport modes.

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