The American Trucking Associations’ advance seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index decreased 0.5 percent in February to 108.5 following a revised increase of 1.9 percent in January.
The not-seasonally-adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 97.6 in February, down 0.8 percent from the previous month.
Compared with February 2009, seasonally adjusted tonnage increased 2.6 percent, which was the third consecutive year-over-year increase.
For the first two months of this year, seasonally adjusted tonnage climbed 3.5 percent versus the comparable period in 2009. For all of 2009, the tonnage index contracted 8.7 percent, which was the largest annual decrease since 1982.
ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said that the February tonnage reading is difficult to interpret because of the severe winter storms that impacted truck freight movements during the month, particularly on the East Coast. He remains optimistic, however, about the recovery for the industry.
“I continue to hear from motor carriers that both the demand and supply situations are steadily improving,” said Costello. “Certainly it will take a while to make up the ground lost during the recession, but the industry is on the path to recovery.”
He said that he expects to see some volatility on a month-to-month basis throughout this year, but the trend line should be for moderate growth.
ATA calculates the tonnage index based on surveys from its membership and has been doing so since the 1970s.
Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing nearly 69 percent of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods.
Trucks hauled 10.2 billion tons of freight in 2008. Motor carriers collected $660.3 billion, or 83.1 percent of total revenue earned by all transport modes.
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.