April 26, 2011 4:50 PM, EDT

Truck Tonnage Rises 6.3% in March

TT File Photo

Truck tonnage jumped 6.3% in March from a year ago, American Trucking Associations said Tuesday.

The year-over-year increase followed a revised 4.4% gain in February that was slightly higher than 4.2% originally reported, ATA said in its monthly seasonally adjusted for-hire truck tonnage report.

The index is now at a reading of 115.4, with the year 2000 as a baseline reading of 100. January’s reading of 116.6 had been the highest in three years.

The March index was up 1.7% from February, and tonnage rose 6.1% in the first quarter from a year ago, while improving 3.8% from the fourth quarter, ATA said.

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said the figures were encouraging for the trucking industry, but cited a cautionary note on soaring fuel prices going forward.

“Despite my concern that higher energy costs are going to begin cutting into consumer spending, tonnage levels were pretty good in March and the first quarter of the year,” Costello said.

“While I still think the industry will continue to grow and recover from the weak freight environment we've seen in recent years, the rapid spike in fuel prices will slow that growth,” he said in a statement.

Costello added that as long as U.S. manufacturing activity remains strong, truck tonnage will continue to benefit.

ATA calculates the tonnage each month based on reports by its member trucking companies.