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Truck tonnage index dip contrary to positive signs

March 22, 2017
American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index retreated 0.1% in February 2017 after a 2.9% increase during January.

American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index retreated 0.1% in February 2017 after a 2.9% increase during January.

The index equaled 138.7 (2000=100) in February, down from 138.9 in January. The all-time high was 142.7 in February 2016.

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Compared with February 2016, the SA index decreased 2.8%. In January, the index rose 2.6% on a year-over-year basis. Year-to-date, versus the same two months in 2016, the index is down 0.1%. For all of 2016, tonnage was up 2.5%.

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 125.5 in February. This was 4.6% below the previous month (131.7).

“February’s numbers, especially the year-over-year drop, might surprise some as several other economic indicators were positive in February,” said Bob Costello, ATA chief economist. “However, I’m not worried about the decline from February last year as it was really due to very difficult comparisons more than anything else—February 2016 was abnormally strong.

“Looking ahead, signs remain mostly positive for truck tonnage, including lower inventory levels, better manufacturing activity, solid housing starts, good consumer spending, as well as an increase in the oil rig count—all of which are drivers of freight volumes,” he said.

Trucking serves as a barometer of the US economy, representing 70.1% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled nearly 10.5 billion tons of freight in 2015. Motor carriers collected $726.4 billion, or 81.2% of total revenue earned by all transport modes.

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