ATA Truck Tonnage Index sinks 0.7% in April 2011

The American Trucking Associations’ advance seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index decreased 0.7% in April 2011 after gaining a revised 1.9% in March 2011. March’s increase was slightly better than the 1.7% ATA reported April 26, 2011. The latest drop put the SA index at 114.9 (2000=100) in April, down from the March level of 115.6.

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 113.6 in April, which was 8% below the previous month.

Compared with April 2010, SA tonnage climbed 4.8%. In March, the tonnage index was 6.5% above a year earlier.

“The drop in April is not a concern. Since freight volumes are so volatile, truck tonnage is unlikely to grow every month, even on a seasonally adjusted basis,” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said. “I expect economic activity—and with it truck freight levels—to grow at a moderate pace in the coming months and quarters.

“The industry, and the economy at large, should benefit from the recent declines in oil and diesel prices,” Costello said. “Lower fuel costs will help freight volumes and motor carrier bottom lines going forward.”

Trucking serves as a barometer of the US economy, representing 67.2% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 9 billion tons of freight in 2010. Motor carriers collected $563.4 billion, or 81.2% of total revenue earned by all transport modes.

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