American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index rose 0.7% in January after increasing 1% in December.
In January, the index equaled 117.1 (2015=100) compared with 116.2 in December.
“Tonnage has increased nicely in the last couple of months,” said Bob Costello, ATA’s chief economist. “I suspect that some of the gain is attributable to capacity coming out of the network, especially those carriers that primarily operate in the spot market and/or bought expensive used equipment in the last couple of years. This would push more freight to contract carriers, which dominate this index. It could also be that freight bottomed and is coming up a little, too. So, the gain is likely a little higher demand and a little less supply.
“Despite the increases in December and January, tonnage is still off 1.4% from its recent high in September.”
Compared with January 2022, the SA index increased 1.5%, which was the 17th straight year-over-year gain, ATA said. In December, the index was up 0.9% from a year earlier. In 2022, compared with the average in 2021, tonnage was up 3.5%.
The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 112.7 in January, 0.4% below the December level (113.2). 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.