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January 22, 2014 12:00 PM, EST
ATA Tonnage Index Rises 8.2% in Dec., Hits Another Record
Tom Biery/Trans Pixs

American Trucking Associations said its tonnage index rose 8.2% last month, reaching another record, capping the strongest year since 1998 and reflecting increasing strength across broad economic sectors.

The not seasonally adjusted index increased to 131.7, bettering the previous record of 130.9 in November. December’s tonnage raised the index 6.2% over 2012 and capped the best year since 1998, when the index increased 10.1%. The sequential improvement from November was 0.6%.

“Tonnage ended 2013 on a high note, which fits with many economic indicators as trucking is an excellent reflection of the tangible goods economy,” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said. “I’m seeing more broad-based gains now. The improvement is not limited to the tank truck and flatbed sectors like earlier in the year.”

Among the recent indicators of an improving economy are stronger industrial production and manufacturing reports from the federal government and a report from purchasing managers that suggested increased activity.

“The final quarter was the strongest we’ve seen since in a couple of years, rising 2.2% from the third quarter and 9.1% from a year earlier,” Costello said.

In ATA’s latest report, tonnage in November was revised from a preliminary 2.7% growth to 4.7% in that month.

“With manufacturing and consumer spending picking up, coupled with solid volumes from hydraulic fracturing, I look for tonnage to be good in 2014 as well,” Costello said, without setting a percentage target.