ATA Truck Tonnage Index fell 0.5% in February

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The American Trucking Associations’ advance seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index decreased 0.5 percent in February following a revised 1.9 percent increase in January. The latest drop put the SA index at 108.5, down from 109.1 in January. The nonseasonally 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 percent from the previous month.

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

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello says that 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, but that 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,” Costello says. “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 expects to see some volatility on a month-to-month basis throughout this year, but the trend line should be for moderate growth.

ATA calculates the tonnage index based on surveys from its membership. The report includes month-to-month and year-over-year results, relevant economic comparisons and key financial indicators. The baseline year is 2000.