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Tonnage up 0.6 percent in March, ATA reports

Compared with March 2013, the SA index increased 3.1 percent, which is the largest year-over-year gain of 2014.

The Trucker News Services

4/22/2014

ARLINGTON, Va. — The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 0.6 percent in March, after jumping 1.9 percent the previous month.

February’s gain was less than the 2.8 percent reported on March 18, 2014. In March, the index equaled 127.3 (2000=100) versus 126.5 in February. The all-time high was in November 2013 (131.0).

Compared with March 2013, the SA index increased 3.1 percent, which is the largest year-over-year gain of 2014. During the first quarter, tonnage plunged 2.5 percent from the previous quarter, which was the worst quarter-to-quarter reading since the economic recovery began in the third quarter of 2009. Compared with the first quarter 2013, tonnage rose 2.3 percent.

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 129.4 in March, which was 12.1 percent above the previous month (115.5).

“Tonnage continued to claw its way out of the hole that was dug in December and January,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “However, with a cumulative gain of 2.5 percent during the last two months, we still have a way to go to offset the total loss of 5.2 percent in December and January.

“Despite the fact that tonnage hasn’t snapped back to the levels we saw late last year, the fundamentals for truck freight continue to look good,” he said. “While it will take time to regain what was lost due to weather and other factors, like a potential inventory correction in the first quarter, I remain optimistic for 2014; however, don’t expect a 6.3 percent annual gain in truck tonnage like during 2013.”

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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