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ATA truck tonnage increased 0.5% in February

“Fleets told us that February was decent and that played out in the numbers,” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said.

The Trucker News Services

3/27/2012

ARLINGTON, Va. — The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index rose 0.5 percent in February after falling 4.6 percent in January. 

(January’s decrease was more than the preliminary 4 percent drop ATA reported on February 28th.)

The latest gain put the SA index at 119.3 (2000=100), up from January’s level of 118.7.  Compared with February 2011, the SA index was up 5.5 percent, better than January’s 3.1 percent increase.

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 112.9 in February, which was 1.3 percent above the previous month.

“Fleets told us that February was decent and that played out in the numbers,” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said.   Costello noted that February’s month-to-month increase was sixth in the last seven months.

“I’m still expecting continued truck tonnage growth going forward.  Rising manufacturing activity and temperate consumer spending should be helped a little from an improving housing market,” he said.

Each month, ATA asks its membership the amount of tonnage each carrier hauled, including all types of freight.  The indexes are calculated based on those responses.  The sample includes an array of trucking companies, ranging from small fleets to multi-billion dollar carriers.

When a company in the sample fails, we include its final month of operation and zero it out for the following month, with the assumption that the remaining carriers pick up that freight.  As a result, it is close to a net wash and does not end up in a false increase.  Nevertheless, some carriers are picking up freight from failures and it may have boosted the index. Due to our correction mentioned above however, it should be limited.

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Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, 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.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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