ARLINGTON, Va. – The American Trucking Association’s (ATA) seasonally-adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index hit an all-time high in February, jumping 7.2% after a revised 0.3% reduction the month prior.
Compared with the year before, the seasonally adjusted index was up 8.6%, and the year-to-date comparison during the same period in 2016 shows tonnage was up 4.8%.
The non-seasonally-adjusted index representing the change in tonnage actually hauled by fleets before any adjustments equalled 129 in February, up 0.4% from the previous month.
“While it is nice to see a strong February, I caution everyone not to read too much into it,” said ATA chief economist Bob Costello. “The strength was mainly due to a weaker than average January, including bad winter storms, thus there was some catch-up going on in February. Normally, fleets report large declines to ATA in February tonnage, in the range of 5.4% to 6.7% over the last three years. So, the small increase this year yielded a big seasonally adjusted gain. If March is strong, then I’ll get more excited.
“I’m still concerned about the elevated inventories throughout the supply chain. Last week, the Census Bureau reported that relative to sales, inventories rose again in January, which is troubling. We need those inventories reduced before trucking can count on more consistent, better freight volumes.”
The ATA said the February increase was the largest monthly move for the index since January 2013 and the biggest year-over-year increase since December 2013.
The ATA has been collecting the tonnage index from surveys of its membership since the 1970s, saying that trucking serves as a barometer of the US economy, as it represents 68% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, hauling nearly 10 billion tons of freight in 2014.