The American Trucking Associations said Feb. 24 its tonnage index in January rose 3.1 percent over December 2009 levels, marking the highest levels for the closely watched index since September 2008 and the best year-over-year improvement in five years.
The latest gain boosted the monthly index to 110.4 in January from 107 in December, ATA said. The December index was adjusted upward by 1.3 percent, the trucking group said.
The positive data were "seasonally adjusted," ATA said. The group said it makes adjustments to the index to account for events, like the holiday shopping season, that might cause artificial fluctuations in the index. Absent the seasonal adjustments, which would leave the index representing tonnage actually hauled, the January index was actually down 3.3 percent from December 2009 figures, ATA said.
For all of 2009, the tonnage index was down 8.7 percent, the largest annual decrease since a 12.3-percent plunge in 1982, another recessionary period.
ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said the latest tonnage reading, coupled with anecdotal reports from carriers, indicates that a recovery is under way in the U.S. economy and in the trucking industry, which hauls slightly under 70 percent of the nation's freight.
"While I don't expect tonnage to continue growing as robustly as it did in January, the industry is finally moving in the right direction," Costello said in a statement. "Although there are still risks that could throw the rebound off track, the likelihood of that happening continues to diminish."