Graph: ATA

Graph: ATA

American Trucking Associations’ For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index decreased in the month of April, indicating a soft freight environment.

The advanced seasonally adjusted index fell 2.1% in April to a reading of 134.8, following a 4.4% decline in March. This came on the heels of an unexpected gain in February. Compared to last April, the index was up 2% and year-to-date tonnage was up 3.5% compared to the same period in 2015.

The year-to-date increase was mostly due to the gains made in February, according to ATA. Excluding February, the index was up just 1.8% over the same period in 2015.

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by fleets before seasonal adjustment, equaled 135.1 in April, which was 5% lower than in March.

“After having an abnormally large seasonally adjusted gain in February, tonnage fell in April, in addition to the large drop in March,” said Bob Costello, ATA chief economist. “However, while freight remained soft in April, based on other economic indicators, the outlook for tonnage is a little better than just a couple of months ago.”

Despite having a more positive outlook, the ATA cautioned that an inventory correction throughout the supply chain would diminish truck freight volumes in the near term.

“As a result, we are still likely to experience lackluster tonnage numbers in the next few months,” said Costello.