Big Jump in December Trucking Tonnage: ATA

"While I'm not surprised that tonnage increased in December, I am surprised at the magnitude of the gain," American Trucking Associations Chief Economist Bob Costello said.

Delivering another sign of a rebounding U.S. economy, the American Trucking Associations said its advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index jumped by 6.8 percent in December after rising 0.3 percent in November 2011. And for 2011 as a whole, tonnage rose 5.9 percent from a year earlier, which was the largest annual increase since 1998. Tonnage for December 2011 was 10.5 percent higher than in December 2010.

"While I'm not surprised that tonnage increased in December, I am surprised at the magnitude of the gain," ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said. "Not only did truck tonnage increase due to solid manufacturing output in December, but also from some likely inventory restocking. Inventories, especially at the retail level, are exceedingly lean, and I suspect that tonnage was higher than expected as the supply chain did some restocking during the month."

The index is based on ATA members' reports in a survey on the amount of tonnage they hauled, including all types of freight. The sample includes companies ranging from small fleets to multibillion-dollar carriers. ATA says trucking is a barometer of the U.S. economy because it represents 67.2 percent of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation.

ATA is the largest national trade association for the trucking industry, with 50 affiliated state trucking associations and industry-related conferences and councils.

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