ATA For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index up 7.2 percent in February

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The month of February saw the seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index, which is compiled by the American Trucking Associations (ATA), increase by 7.2 percent after January showed a revised 0.3 percent drop.

February’s index was 144, compared with January’s 134.3 index. The February 2016 index is up 8.6 percent from February 2015. Year-to-date, tonnage is up 4.8 percent over last year.

“While it is nice to see a strong February, I caution everyone not to read too much into it,” Bob Costello, ATA's chief economist, said. “The strength was mainly due to a weaker-than-average January, including bad winter storms; thus, there was some catch-up going on in February. Normally, fleets report large declines to ATA in February tonnage, in the range of 5.4 percent to 6.7 percent over the last three years. So the small increase this year yielded a big seasonally adjusted gain. If March is strong, then I’ll get more excited.

Costello sees trouble elsewhere.

“I’m still concerned about the elevated inventories throughout the supply chain,” Costello said. “Last week, the Census Bureau reported that relative to sales, inventories rose again in January, which is troubling. We need those inventories reduced before trucking can count on more consistent, better freight volumes.”

The February increase is the largest monthly index jump since it moved up 11.4 percent in January 2013. Additionally, it was the steepest year-over-year increase since the 10.4 percent jump in December 2013.

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