ATA
ata_october_2023_tonnage_graphic_adjusted

ATA: Freight levels up but still soft in October

Nov. 28, 2023
“After hitting a floor in April, tonnage has slowly and inconsistently improved, but remains 3% below its recent peak in September 2022,” association’s chief economist reports.

Freight levels are improving “slowly” after bottoming out earlier this year, according to new data from American Trucking Associations, which reports its seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 1.1% in October.

The slight uptick in tonnage follows a 1.1% decline in September, ATA said.

“After hitting a floor in April, tonnage has slowly and inconsistently improved, but remains 3% below its recent peak in September 2022,” Bob Costello, ATA chief economist, said in a news release. “Despite the monthly gain, truck freight remains soft as it continues to contract on a year-over-year basis. It is important to remember that our for-hire truck freight index, which includes both truckload and LTL freight, is dominated by contract freight with minimal amounts of spot market loads.

“The traditional spot market remains much weaker than contract tonnage.”

September’s decline was unchanged from ATA’s earlier release.

Compared with October 2022, the SA index fell 2.1%, which was the eighth straight year-over-year decrease. In September, the index was down 4.1% from a year earlier.

The not-seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 119.7 in October, 6.3% above the September level (112.5). In calculating the index, 100 represents 2015. ATA has calculated the index based on member surveys since the 1970s.

Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing 72.6% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 11.46 billion tons of freight in 2022. Motor carriers collected $940.8 billion, or 80.7% of total revenue earned by all transport modes.