Tonnage index falls in February

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Winter weather apparently took its toll on freight volumes in February, according to the American Trucking Associations’ advance seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index, which decreased 2.9 percent after increasing a revised 3.5 percent in January 2011. The latest drop put the SA index at 113.3 in February; in January, the SA index equaled 116.6. During December 2010 and January 2011 together, the SA tonnage index rose 6.1 percent. The not seasonally adjusted index – representing the change in tonnage actually hauled by carriers before seasonal adjustment – dropped 2.8 percent in February from the previous month.

Year over year, February tonnage was up 4.2 percent, and for the first two months of the year, tonnage is up 5.9 percent compared with the same two months last year.

Winter storms in February probably played a role in the latest reduction, says ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello, who added that he wasn’t concerned about the decline. “Tonnage is not going to increase every month and in general I’m very pleased with freight volumes early this year.” Costello also said that anecdotal reports from carriers are encouraging. “I’m hearing a significant amount of positive news from fleets and that the largest concern continues to be the price of diesel fuel, not freight levels.”
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 base year for the index is 2000.