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ATA tonnage index retreats 4 percent in January

For all of 2011, tonnage rose 5.8 percent, slightly lower than the 5.9 percent previously reported, and matched 2010’s gain.

The Trucker News Services

2/28/2012

ARLINGTON, Va. — The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index fell 4 percent in January after surging 6.4 percent in December 2011. The latest contraction put the SA index at 119.4 (2000=100), down from December’s record level of 124.4.

The index increased 3.6 percent from January 2011.

ATA recently revised the seasonally adjusted index back five years as part of its annual revision. For all of 2011, tonnage rose 5.8 percent, slightly lower than the 5.9 percent previously reported, and matched 2010’s gain.

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The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 112.1 in January, which was 3.5 percent below the previous month.  

“Last month I said I was surprised by the size of the gain in December. Today, I’m not surprised that tonnage fell on a seasonally adjusted basis in January simply due to the fact that December was so strong,” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said.  

Costello noted that December’s increase was the largest month-to-month gain since January 2005.  

“I’m still optimistic about truck tonnage going forward.  In fact, while many fleets said January was normal, they are also saying that February has been pretty good so far,” he said.    

Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, ATA says, representing 67.2 percent of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 9 billion tons of freight in 2010.  Motor carriers collected $563.4 billion, or 81.2 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.

Kevin Jones of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at kevinj@thetrucker.com.

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