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Truck tonnage index dips in March

April 18, 2017
Winter storms constrain index; ATA says signs remain mostly positive

For-hire truck tonnage dipped 1% in March from February, American Trucking Associations reported, a figure the group said was likely constrained by winter storms during the month.

ATA’s seasonally adjusted index stands at 137.5, a gain of 0.7% from March 2016. The index was up 0.2% for the first quarter, compared with the same time frame in 2016, and 1.2% higher from the fourth quarter.

The index’s all-time high was 142.7 in February 2016.

“While I’m not expecting a surge in truck tonnage anytime soon, the signs remain mostly positive for freight, including lower inventory levels, better manufacturing activity, solid housing starts and good consumer spending,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “As a result, we can expect moderate growth going forward.”

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents tonnage actually hauled before seasonal adjustments, was 143.9 in March, which was 14.6% above the previous month.

ATA’s report was issued one day after research firm ACT said its for-hire index for March was 71.1, the highest reading since March 2014. That is 20 points higher than February, as well as the 12-month average.

ACT’s release includes a comment from an unnamed fleet that states “load demand continued to be fairly steady through the end of the month and quarter.”

The fleet adds it is hopeful demand will remain strong through the second quarter, so it can “begin to address the rate issue with the marketplace.”

ACT also says its pricing index for March was 64.8, the sixth straight monthly increase and the highest since May 2014.

Also April 17, J.B. Hunt Transport Services said loads increased 1% at its trucking division, though revenue dipped for that unit.

It intermodal, dedicated and brokerage units all reported higher revenues, leading to net income for the first quarter of $102.7 million, or 92 cents a share, up from $100.1 million, of 87 cents, in the first three months of 2016.

Companywide, J.B. Hunt experienced volume growth during the quarter, but saw lower rates, and higher transportation costs and driver wages.

About the Author

Neil Abt

Neil Abt, editorial director at Fleet Owner, is a veteran journalist with over 20 years of reporting experience, including 15 years spent covering the trucking industry. A graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., he began his career covering sports for The Washington Post newspaper, followed by a position in the newsroom of America Online (AOL) and then both reporting and leadership roles at Transport Topics. Abt is based out of Portland, Oregon.

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