The amount of freight moved by for-hire trucking operations fell in April, but the news was not surprising considering economic reports leading up to it.

The American Trucking Associations’ For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index fell 0.2% after rising 0.9% in March. The seasonally-adjusted index equaled 123.2 versus 123.5 in March. The highest level on record was December 2011 at 124.3 while 100 is the 2010 level.

Compared with April 2012, the index was up 4.3%, which is the largest year-over-year gain since January of this year at 4.7%.  Year-to-date, compared with the same period in 2012, the tonnage index is up 4%. 

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 125.9 in April, which was 0.5% above the previous month at 125.2. 

“The slight drop in tonnage during April fit with trends from other industries that drive a significant amount of truck freight, such as manufacturing and housing,” says Bob Costello, ATA chief economist.

He notes that in April, compared with the previous month, factory output slipped 0.4% while housing starts plunged 16.5%.

“After rising significantly late last year and in January of this year, truck tonnage has been bouncing around a narrow, but elevated band over the last three months.” he said. “It is also worth noting that the year-over-year comparisons are much better than expected just a few months ago and I’m hearing good comments about freight so far in May.”