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Tonnage drops 0.2 percent in April, but up for year

Year-to-date, compared with the same period in 2012, the tonnage index is up 4 percent.

The Trucker News Services

5/22/2013

ARLINGTON, Va. — The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index fell 0.2 percent in April after rising 0.9 percent in March.

In April, the SA index equaled 123.2 (2000=100) versus 123.5 in March.

The highest level on record was December 2011 at 124.3.  Compared with April 2012, the SA index was up 4.3 percent, which is the largest year-over-year gain since January of this year (4.7 percent).

Year-to-date, compared with the same period in 2012, the tonnage index is up 4 percent.

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 125.9 in April, which was 0.5 percent above the previous month (125.2). 

“The slight drop in tonnage during April fit with trends from other industries that drive a significant amount of truck freight, such as manufacturing and housing,” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said, noting that in April, compared with the previous month, factory output slipped 0.4 percet while housing starts plunged 16.5 percent.

“After rising significantly late last year and in January of this year, truck tonnage has been bouncing around a narrow, but elevated band over the last three months.” he said. “It is also worth noting that the year-over-year comparisons are much better than expected just a few months ago and I’m hearing good comments about freight so far in May.”

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.

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.

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

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