The American Trucking Assns.’ (ATA) advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index climbed 0.5% in February after falling 4.6% in January.  ATA noted that January’s decrease was more than the preliminary 4% drop the trucking lobby reported on February 28th.

This latest gain puts the SA index at 119.3 (where 2000=100)--  and up from January’s level of 118.7.  Compared with February 2011, the SA index was up 5.5%, better than January’s 3.1% increase.

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 112.9 in February-- 1.3% above the previous month.

“Fleets told us that February was decent and that played out in the numbers,” ATA chief economist Bob Costello said.  He pointed out that February’s month-to-month increase was sixth in the last seven months.

“I’m still expecting continued truck tonnage growth going forward,” he continued. “Rising manufacturing activity and temperate consumer spending should be helped a little from an improving housing market.”

To see a YouTube video of Costello discussing  truck tonnage and the economy, click here.

ATA noted that each month it asks its membership the amount of tonnage each carrier hauled, including all types of freight.  The indexes are calculated based on those responses.  The sample includes an array of trucking companies, ranging from small fleets to multi-billion dollar carriers.

When a company in the sample fails, ATA includes its final month of operation and zeroes it out for the following month, with the assumption that the remaining carriers pick up that freight.  “As a result, it [the numbers] is close to a net wash and does not end up in a false increase.  Nevertheless, some carriers are picking up freight from failures and it may have boosted the index,” ATA stated, but “due to our correction, however, it should be limited.”

ATA calculates the tonnage index based on surveys from its membership and has been doing so since the 1970s. ATA does caution that “this is a preliminary figure and subject to change in the final report issued around the 10th day of the month.”

The report includes month-to-month and year-over-year results, relevant economic comparisons, and key financial indicators.