The American Trucking Associations (ATA) advanced seasonally adjusted for-hire Truck Tonnage Index decreased 2.5 percent in February, marking its first monthly decline since August 2005.
Bob Costello, ATA chief economist, said the latest decrease was the largest month-to-month decline in a year. The index dropped 5.4 percent from January 2005 to February 2005.
"The string of consecutive monthly increases was bound to come to an end at some point," Costello said. "Motor carriers have been telling us that volumes have been fair recently and our index clearly reflects that sentiment. We continue to believe that motor carriers should expect modest growth in volumes going forward and that the latest decrease should not alarm the industry."
ATA said the latest dip put the seasonally adjusted index at 115.1 (2000 = 100), which was the lowest level since September 2005.
The tonnage index had increased five consecutive months totaling 3.3 percent before the February contraction. Compared with February 2005, the index was 0.2 percent lower.
The not seasonally adjusted index dropped 4.5 percent from January to 104.1.
Trucking serves as a barometer of the US 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.