American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index jumped 7.2% in February, following a revised 0.3% reduction during January. In February, the index equaled 144 (2000=100), up from 134.3 in January. February’s level is an all-time high.
Compared with February 2015, the SA index was up 8.6%, which was up from January’s 1.1% year-over-year gain. Year-to-date, compared with the same period in 2015, tonnage was up 4.8%.
The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 129 in February, which was 0.4% above the previous month (128.5).
“While it is nice to see a strong February, I caution everyone not 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.” he said. “We need those inventories reduced before trucking can count on more consistent, better freight volumes.”
The increase is the largest monthly move for the index since January 2013 (11.4%) and the largest year-over-year increase since December 2013 (10.4%).
Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing 68.8% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled just under 10 billion tons of freight in 2014. Motor carriers collected $700.4 billion, or 80.3% 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.