A key indicator of trucking activity rose 0.5 percent in February from January, signaling truck freight volumes are rising after a post-holiday decline.
The American Trucking Associations For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index not only increased from January, but rose 5.5 percent year-over-year last month.
In January, seasonally adjusted truck tonnage dropped 4.6 percent after surging a 6.4 percent in December, the strongest month-to-month gain since 2005.
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.
“I’m still expecting continued truck tonnage growth going forward,” Costello said. “We’ve also seen some signs of life in the housing sector.”
February’s rise in the seasonally adjusted index was the sixth increase in seventh months, Costello said. Year-to-date, the index is up 4.3 percent year-over-year.
In addition to manufacturing, hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” for natural gas and oil is also contributing to increases in truck tonnage, Costello said.
“I am a little concerned over fuel prices,” he said. The average U.S. diesel price hit a 33-month high in the week ending March 26, climbing to $4.147 a gallon.
The national average retail gasoline price climbed half a cent to $3.918 a gallon, up 32 cents from a year ago, according to the Energy Information Administration.
“As consumers spend more on fuel, they have less money to spend elsewhere,” said Costello. He said he hoped higher employment rates might counter that effect.
Consumer confidence dropped slightly in March, after reaching a one-year high in February, according to the Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index.