For-hire trucking tonnage rose a scant 0.4% in March, according to figures compiled by the American Trucking Assns. (ATA). And while the tonnage figures indicate freight volumes are moving in the right direction, they came in below many experts' expectations.
“In general, these numbers are fairly in line with expectations; however, they are a little bit lower than expected as we were coming off weather-related issues in February,” Eric Starks, president of research firm FTR Associates, told Fleet Owner.
ATA's for-hire truck tonnage index decreased 0.3% in February following the impact of several major winter storms across much of the U.S. As a result, said Starks, many in the industry expected freight to rebound strongly in March.
“The expectations for March were an uptick in freight. Obviously, that didn't happen,” he said. “Either the weather wasn't as much a factor as we thought, or things just aren't growing as fast as we'd hoped.” That being said, Starks stressed that the March tonnage increase recorded by ATA, however small, is “still a positive thing.”
“Freight is moving in the right direction, and I continue to hear from motor carriers that both the demand and supply situations are steadily improving,” said Bob Costello, ATA's chief economist.
For the first quarter of 2010, he said, ATA's for-hire tonnage metric jumped 4.9% compared with the same period last year, and that is making Costello more optimistic about the motor carrier industry's recovery.