ATA tonnage index increases 3.8% in January

The American Trucking Associations’ advance seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 3.8 percent in January after rising a revised 2.5 percent in December.

The latest jump put the adjusted index at 117.1 in January, which was the highest level since January 2008. In December, the adjusted index equaled 112.7.

ATA recently revised the seasonally adjusted index back five years as part of its annual revision. The nonadjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets, equaled 105.4 in January, down 2.9 percent from the previous month.

Compared with January 2010, adjusted tonnage climbed 8 percent, which was the largest year-over-year increase since April 2010. For 2010, tonnage was up 5.7 percent from 2009.

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said January’s gain was strong, especially considering the winter storms during the month. “Many fleets told us that freight was solid in January, although operations were a challenge due to the winter storms that hit large parts of the country,” he said.

Costello said the latest tonnage numbers indicate the economy is growing at a good clip early in 2011 and that he expects a solid first half of the year. “At this point, the biggest threat is the recent run-up in oil prices, which could dampen consumer spending,” he said.