The latest increase was the first since January and the strongest month-to-month gain since January 2005.
The latest increase put the seasonally adjusted index at 112.6 (2000 = 100). Compared with April 2006, the index was 1.9 percent lower. The not-seasonally adjusted index dropped 9.5 percent from March to 107.8.
ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said April was in line with industry expectations because many motor carriers anecdotally stated that the month was the most robust since January. April volumes were a “step in the right direction” after several weaker months, but Costello said they didn’t fully make up for the softer volumes of February and March. A significant retail inventory correction coupled with softer volumes for high-weight products in the manufacturing sector curbed tonnage volumes in those two months.
“If February and March weren’t so weak, the 2.0 percent jump in April would have been viewed as stellar,” Costello noted. “Many carriers have noted an abnormally high start and stop trend in freight recently, with some good weeks followed by a step backward. Nevertheless, April was a good sign that truck volumes are improving from the challenging first quarter.”
Costello said he generally expects modest gains will continue in coming months.
Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy because it represents nearly 70 percent of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods.
Trucks hauled 9.8 billion tons of freight in 2004. Motor carriers collected $671 billion dollars, or just under 88 percent 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 tenth day of the month. The report includes month-to-month and year-over-year results, relevant economic comparisons and key financial indicators.