ATA Reports Slight Increase in Truck Tonnage Index

The American Trucking Associations’ advance seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased for the sixth time in the last seven months, gaining another 0.9 percent in April. This followed a 0.4 percent increase in March. The latest improvement put the seasonally adjusted index at 110.2 (2000=100), which is the highest level since September 2008. Over the last seven months, the tonnage index grew a total of 6.5 percent, ATA reported.

According to ATA, trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing 68 percent of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 8.8 billion tons of freight in 2009. Motor carriers collected $544.4 billion, or 81.9 percent of total revenue earned by all transport modes.

The not-seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 111.3 in April, down 4.4 percent from the previous month.

Compared with April 2009, seasonally adjusted tonnage surged 9.4 percent, which was the fifth consecutive year-over-year gain and the largest increase since January 2005. Year-to-date, tonnage is up 6 percent compared with the same period in 2009.

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said that the latest tonnage reading fits with a sustained economic recovery. “Truck tonnage volumes continue to improve at a solid, yet sustainable, rate. Tonnage is being boosted by robust manufacturing output and stronger retail sales.” He added, reiterating a statement from last month, that, “For most fleets, freight volumes feel better than reported tonnage because the supply situation, particularly in the truckload sector, is turning quickly.”

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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