April for-hire truck tonnage decreases

The advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index decreased 2.2 percent in April, after posting a 1.2 percent jump in March, according to the American Trucking Associations (ATA).

On a seasonally adjusted basis, the tonnage index declined to 112.1 in April from 114.6 the previous month. After March’s year-over-year increase, which was the first since June 2006, April’s tonnage was 2.7 percent below the same month in 2006.

ATA said the year-over-year decrease was not surprising, given the weak anecdotal reports from carriers as well as the unexpected strength in March. “April’s tonnage figures highlight that the economy hasn’t turned the corner just yet," said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. "We can expect this volatility to continue over the next few months, with the potential for more year-over-year contractions.”

The industry is likely to see a gradual improvement in volumes as the year progresses due to an inventory correction and a better economic outlook for 2008. These should combine to boost truck volumes, Costello said.

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, according to ATA. Trucks hauled 10.7 billion tons of freight in 2005. Motor carriers collected $623 billion, or 84.3 percent of total revenue earned by all transport modes.

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