The For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index rose 1.6 percent in February after falling a revised 3.1 percent in January, according to statistics released Monday from the American Trucking Associations (ATA).
On a seasonally adjusted basis, the tonnage index improved to 113.3 (2000 = 100) in February from 111.5 in January. The index fell 1.7 percent compared with a year earlier, for the eighth consecutive year-over-year decline. The not seasonally adjusted index declined 6.8 percent from January to 101.2.
February's tonnage increase was unexpected, considering other economic trends during the month and the severe winter weather, said Bob Costello, ATA Chief Economist. He attributes some of the index's strength, though, to easy comparisons with January because the first month of the year was particularly weak.
“The latest increase from January, as well as the relatively small decrease from a year earlier, while welcomed, is probably not the norm, at least in the short-run,” said Costello.
He noted that freight levels remain challenging, despite some anecdotal reports of better volumes in late March, although it is difficult to tell if those reports are due to seasonal glitchess or an underlying trend.
"We continue to look to the second half of 2007 for better tonnage volumes. But we shouldn’t expect a robust rebound in freight during 2007,” Costello said.
Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy because it represents almost 70 percent of tonnage carried by all types of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods.