ATA
Tonnage Dispatch Dec2022 Infographic

ATA: Truck tonnage up slightly in December

Jan. 31, 2023
‘Despite weakening in the second half, 2022 overall was a solid year for truck freight tonnage,’ trucking association’s top economist says

American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index rose 0.4% in December after decreasing 2.5% in November.

In December, the index equaled 115.2 (2015=100) vs. 114.8 in November.

“Despite the small gain in December, for-hire truck tonnage clearly decelerated during the final quarter in 2022,” Bob Costello, ATA’s chief economist, said in a news release. “In fact, tonnage outperformed some other key metrics that drive truck freight, like housing starts and factory output, during the final month of the year.

“This is probably because contract truckload freight is still outperforming the spot market and less-than-truckload freight after underperforming both of those sectors in 2021.”

For all of 2022, tonnage was up 3.4%, which was the best annual gain since 2018, ATA reported.

“Despite weakening in the second half, 2022 overall was a solid year for truck freight tonnage,” Costello continued. “The index’s yearly gains were primarily driven by strength in the first half of 2022, so despite a marked slowdown as the year ended, for the year as a whole, tonnage posted a very solid year overall.”

Compared with December 2021, the SA index increased 0.3%, which was the 16th consecutive year-over-year gain, but the smallest over that period, ATA added. In November, the index was up 0.8% from a year earlier.

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 112.6 in December, 1.8% below the November level (114.6). In calculating the index, 100 represents 2015. ATA’s For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index is dominated by contract freight as opposed to spot market freight.

Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing 72.2% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 10.93 billion tons of freight in 2021. Motor carriers collected $875.5 billion, or 80.8% of total revenue earned by all transport modes.

ATA calculates the tonnage index based on surveys from its membership and has been doing so since the 1970s. 

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BT staff