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December tonnage gain caps ATA Tonnage Index's best year since 1998

“Tonnage ended 2013 on a high note, which fits with many economic indicators as trucking is an excellent reflection of the tangible goods economy,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello.

The Trucker News Services

1/23/2014

ARLINGTON, Va. — The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 0.6 percent in December, after surging 4.7 percent in November. The increase pushed the index 6.2 percent higher for the full year making it the index's best year since 1998.

November’s increase was significantly larger than the preliminary gain of 2.7 percent ATA reported on December 20, 2013. In December, the index equaled 131.7 (2000=100) versus 130.9 in November. December’s level is a record high. Compared with December 2012, the SA index increased 8.2 percent.

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 123.0 in December, which was 1.4 percent below the previous month (124.8).

“Tonnage ended 2013 on a high note, which fits with many economic indicators as trucking is an excellent reflection of the tangible goods economy,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “The final quarter was the strongest we’ve seen in a couple of years, rising 2.2 percent from the third quarter and 9.1 percent from a year earlier.” 

Costello reiterated his statement from last month: the tonnage acceleration in the second half of the year is pointing to an economy that is likely stronger than some might believe.

“I’m seeing more broad-based gains now. The improvement is not limited to the tank truck and flatbed sectors like earlier in the year," he said. "With manufacturing and consumer spending picking up, coupled with solid volumes from hydraulic fracturing, I look for tonnage to be good in 2014 as well.”

Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing 68.5 percent of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 9.4 billion tons of freight in 2012. Motor carriers collected $642.1 billion, or 80.7 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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