American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 6.7% in September after declining 5.3% in August. In September, the index equaled 115.1 (2015=100) compared with 107.9 in August.
“September had a nice recovery after a significant decline in August,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “The truck freight market continues to be bifurcated, with strength in retail and home construction, but some continued weakness in industrial freight. During the third quarter, truck tonnage increased 2.4% over the second quarter, but fell 5.3% from a year earlier.”
August’s decrease was revised up to -5.3% from our September 22 press release.
Compared with September 2019, the SA index contracted 2.7%, the sixth straight year-over-year decline. Year-to-date, compared with the same period in 2019, tonnage is down 3.3%.
The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 112.4 in September, 0.7% below the August 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 72.5% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 11.84 billion tons of freight in 2019. Motor carriers collected $791.7 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. This is a preliminary figure and subject to change in the final report issued around the 5th day of each month. The report includes month-to-month and year-over-year results, relevant economic comparisons, and key financial indicators.