U.S. trucking volumes fell back sharply in January. The American Trucking Associations' preliminary truck tonnage index of for-hire fleets dropped 4 percent to 119.4 in the first month of 2012 after advancing 6.4 percent, to a record 124.4 in December. The index is based on a survey of member companies and is adjusted to account for seasonality.
The index increased 3.6 percent compared to the same month a year earlier, representing a more accurate picture of the improving health of the trucking sector.
The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 112.1 in January, which was 3.5 percent below the previous month, the ATA said.
Updated figures for 2011 showed that tonnage grew 5.8 percent, slightly lower than the 5.9 percent previously reported. The tonnage increase last year equaled that in 2010.
“Last month I said I was surprised by the size of the gain in December. Today, I’m not surprised that tonnage fell on a seasonally adjusted basis in January simply due to the fact that December was so strong,” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said in a statement.
He noted that December’s increase was the largest month-to-month gain since January 2005.
“I’m still optimistic about truck tonnage going forward. In fact, while many fleets said January was normal, they are also saying that February has been pretty good so far,” he said.