American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index rose 0.6% in January after increasing 0.9% in December.
In January, the index equaled 115.5 (2015=100) compared with 114.9 in December, ATA said.
The association added that it also recently revised the seasonally adjusted index back five years as part of its annual revision.
“January’s gain was the sixth straight totaling 4.4%,” said Bob Costello, ATA chief economist. “The index, which is dominated by contract freight with only small amounts of spot market truck freight, is off 3.9% from the all-time high in August 2019 and only 1.5% below March 2020 when the pandemic hit. In January, truck tonnage was helped by rising retail sales and factory output. While housing starts fell last month, which is another important driver of truck tonnage, it remained at high levels.”
Compared with January 2021, the SA index increased 1.2%, which was the fifth straight year-over-year gain. In December, the index was up 1.5% from a year earlier. In 2021, compared with the average in 2020, tonnage was up 0.3%. In 2020, tonnage was off 4% compared with 2019.
The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 109.2 in January, 4.3% below the December level (114.1). 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 72.5% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 10.23 billion tons of freight in 2020. Motor carriers collected $732.3 billion, or 80.4% 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.