The American Trucking Associations’ (ATA) advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index remained flat in February 2008, after rising 2.4% in January.
The not seasonally adjusted index decreased 3.9% from January to 109.1.
The seasonally adjusted tonnage index remained at 117.2 (2000 = 100) in February, its highest level in more than two years. Tonnage increased 3.5% compared with February 2007, and marked the fourth consecutive year-over-year increase in the index.
ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said February’s reading was encouraging. “The fact that truck tonnage did not lose any of January’s robust 2.4-percent gain is quite positive,” he said.
Costello continues to forecast a mild recession for the overall economy during the first half of 2008. He noted, however, that truck tonnage typically leads general economic activity. Truck tonnage rebounded in 2001, for example, just as the aggregate economy was slipping into a recession.
“Perhaps we are seeing a repeat of the last recovery,” Costello said. “But it is still too early to make that call, especially with energy prices at historic levels. There are just too many downside risks at the moment to say definitively that trucking is leading an economic recovery.”
Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy because it represents nearly 70% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods.
Trucks hauled 10.7 billion tons of freight in 2006. Motor carriers collected $645.6 billion, or 83.8% 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.
The American Trucking Associations is the largest national trade association for the trucking industry. Through a federation of other trucking groups, industry-related conferences, and its 50 affiliated state trucking associations, ATA represents more than 37,000 members covering every type of motor carrier in the United States.