The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index gained 0.9 percent in March, signaling an increase in tonnage in four of the last five months, according to an ATA press release published Tuesday.
The March figures follow a 0.7 percent decrease in February, which was later revised downward from a 0.6 percent increase reported by the trucking trade association in mid-March.
The ATA said the index is up 7.6 percent since November of last year. In March, the seasonally adjusted index equaled 123.5 (2000=100) versus 122.3 in February. The highest level on record was December 2011 at 124.3. Compared with March 2012, the seasonally adjusted index was up a solid 3.8 percent, surpassing February’s 3.1 percent year-over-year gain. Year-to-date —when compared with the same period in 2012 — the tonnage index is up 3.9 percent.
“Fitting with the expectation for solid gross domestic product growth in the first quarter, tonnage was strong in March and the quarter overall,” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said. “At 3.9 percent year-over-year growth, the first quarter increase was the best since the final quarter 2011.
“The good news for tonnage is housing starts are growing and energy production is good — both of which generates heavy freight. However, these two sectors alone won’t be enough to keep the overall index growing at a 3.9 percent clip in the second quarter,” Costello said. “Expect freight tonnage to slow in the months ahead as the federal government sequester continues and households finish spending their tax returns.”
According to ATA figures, trucking represents 67 percent of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 9.2 billion tons of freight in 2011. Motor carriers collected $603.9 billion, or 80.9 percent of total revenue earned by all transport modes.
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.