Warmer than typical winter weather helped hold demand for trucking steady in February, typically a slack month for motor carriers, FTR Associates said.
The research group’s trucking conditions index for February eased slightly from the previous month, but remained in “positive” territory for trucking companies.
“We expect pricing power to remain squarely on the side of the carrier in 2012,” Larry Gross, senior consultant for Nashville, Ind.-based FTR, said in a statement.
Reasonably favorable conditions for truckers this winter “bode well for later in the year, as demand increases seasonally to more normal levels,” Gross said.
Truck tonnage increased 0.5 percent in February from January and 5.5 percent year-over-year, according to the American Trucking Associations truck tonnage index.
A sustained increased U.S. manufacturing output is driving truck tonnage higher, said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello, putting wheels under the recovery.
“Since bottoming out in the summer of 2009, (for-hire truck) tonnage is up a very robust 18.2 percent,” Costello said in a video released Wednesday.
Truck supply relative to market demand was considered stable in early 2012.
Truckers, especially truckload carriers, are more concerned with hiring truckers.
“At this point in time, there are enough trucks in place to handle the freight,” Gary Girotti, vice president at Chainalytics, said during a webcast last month.
Truckload and LTL markets will tighten over the course of the year, “but I don’t see any macroeconomic factors that would lead to super-tightening,” Girotti said.
Shippers will have to work closely with carriers to restrain costs in 2012, he said.