The American Trucking Associations' advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index decreased 2.2 percent in April, after posting a 1.2 percent jump in March.
On a seasonally adjusted basis, the tonnage index declined to 112.1 (2000 = 100) in April from 114.6 the previous month. After March's year-over-year increase, which was the first since June 2006, April's tonnage was 2.7 percent below the same month in 2006.
The not seasonally adjusted index contracted 5.7 percent from March to 110.4.
ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said the year-over-year decrease was not surprising, given the weak anecdotal reports from carriers as well as the unexpected strength in March.
"April's tonnage figures highlight that the economy hasn't turned the corner just yet,” he said. “We can expect this volatility to continue over the next few months, with the potential for more year-over-year contractions."
Costello said he anticipates that the industry will see a gradual improvement in volumes as the year progresses due to an inventory correction and a better economic outlook for 2008. These should combine to boost truck volumes.
Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy because it represents nearly 70 percent 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 percent 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.