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Tonnage up 2.9% in January, 9.1% past 3 months

For all of 2012, tonnage was up 2.3 percent. In 2011, the index was up 5.8 percent. (The Truckef file photo)

The Trucker News Services

2/19/2013

ARLINGTON, Va. – The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 2.9 percent in January after jumping 2.4 percent in December.

(The 2.4 percent gain in December was revised down from a 2.8 percent increase ATA reported on Jan. 22, 2013.)

Tonnage has surged at least 2.4 percent every month since November, gaining a total of 9.1 percent over that period. As a result, the SA index equaled 125.2 (2000=100) in January versus 121.7 in December. January’s index was the highest on record. Compared with January 2012, the SA index was up a robust 6.5 percent, the best year-over-year result since December 2011.

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“The trucking industry started 2013 with a bang, reflected in the best January tonnage report in five years,” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said. “While I believe that the overall economy will be sluggish in the first quarter, trucking likely benefited in January from an inventory destocking that transpired late last year, thus boosting volumes more than normal early this year as businesses replenish those lean inventories.”

ATA recently revised the seasonally adjusted index back five years as part of its annual revision. For all of 2012, tonnage was up 2.3 percent, the same as reported prior to the revision. In 2011, the index was up 5.8 percent.

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 122.4 in January, which was 10.7% above the previous month (110.5).

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 the correction mentioned above however, it should be limited.

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

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

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