Truck tonnage index indicates best January on record

A new report from the American Trucking Associations (ATA) revealed truck tonnage was up again last month, making the For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index the highest ever recorded for the month of January. ATA data shows tonnage has increased at least 2.4 percent each month since November 2012, resulting in a gain of 9.1 percent over the past few months. January's seasonally adjusted index shot up to 125.2, marking a 6.5 percent year-over-year increase.

"The trucking industry started 2013 with a bang, reflected in the best January tonnage report in five years," said Bob Costello, ATA chief economist. "While I believe that the overall economy will be sluggish in the first quarter, trucking likely benefited in January from an inventory destocking that transpired late last year, thus boosting volumes more than normal early this year as businesses replenish those lean inventories."

Shipments haven't only increased over the last several months; ATA data showed seasonally adjusted numbers for all of 2012 indicate a 2.3 percent annual increase, while in 2011 the yearly index was up 5.8 percent. This indicates the industry is recovering from the recession, which hit businesses and transportation firms hard.

Efficient processes important as tonnage picks up 
Trucking plays a significant role in the economy, as businesses need to ship out and receive merchandise via truck. The ATA reported 67 percent of tonnage carried across the U.S. is transported by trucks, making them a critical component to business operations. As companies increase their reliance upon commercial carriers and private fleets as the economy begins to recover, management teams need to ensure their vehicles and drivers are able to handle the extra work, especially if truck tonnage continues to climb. 

For this reason, it may be beneficial for transportation firms to implement the use of technology that can help fleets run more efficiently and cost-effectively. Maintenance software can assist with compliance in tracking and quickly repairing problems observed during safety inspections, as well as optimizing fuel economy and fleet availability. Routing and scheduling software can also increase productivity, reduce wasted miles and allow fleets to do more with the same - or fewer - trucks. Vehicle tracking and fleet management software can improve customer service and reduce operating costs through better management of driving behavior, load assignments and on-time performance.