Truck Tonnage Index Improves

The latest release of truck tonnage numbers shows that truck freight volumes continue to rise in 2012, despite a post-holiday decrease in January.

The seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage index, a crucial sign of trucking activity, increased by 0.5 percent in February, the American Trucking Associations announced Tuesday, March 27. The adjusted index rose from 118.7 in January to 119.3 in February.

The ATA's chief economist, Bob Costello, said those results mirror what he has been hearing from truckers on the road.

"Fleets told us that February was decent, and that played out in the numbers," Costello told the Commercial Carrier Journal.

The results of the tonnage index, which is calculated based on surveys of ATA members, show an ongoing upswing in the trucking field and promising prospects for the industry's future.

February's improvement was the sixth month-to-month increase in the past seven months.

The only drop came in January, when the index fell by 4.6 percent compared to December. Trucking tonnage typically decreases in January, following the boom of holiday shipping.

The nonadjusted index also showed an increase in February. It rose to 112.9, up 1.3 percent from January. The nonadjusted index records the change in tonnage carried by truckers without seasonal adjustments.

The long-term numbers revealed by the ATA's For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index also demonstrate sustained growth in the freight hauled by truckers.

Both January and February posted year-over-year gains in the index. January 2012 saw a 3.1 percent increase over the same month a year before, and February saw an even better year-over-year gain, up 5.5 percent.

All of these numbers add up to encouraging prospects for the future of the trucking industry, Costello said. He said that key indicators of economic health indicate sustained, wider growth that will fuel increased loads for truckers.

"I'm still expecting continued truck tonnage growth going forward," Costello said. "Rising manufacturing activity and temperate consumer spending should be helped a little from an improving housing market."

The ATA surveys its members each month to provide the data for the For-Hire Truck Tonnage index. The baseline for the index is trucking tonnage activity during the year 2000.

The monthly report from ATA also includes comparisons of survey results from month to month and year to year. It places those results in the context of the wider economy and financial situation.

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