American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 2.4% in March after rising 0.7% in February. In March, the index equaled 118.8 (2015=100) versus 116.1 in February.
“It is important to note that ATA’s for-hire tonnage data is dominated by contract freight with minimal amounts of spot market loads,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “And clearly contract freight was solid in March, witnessing the largest sequential gain since May 2020. March was also the eighth straight month-to-month improvement, with a total increase of 7.4% over that period.
“During the first quarter, the index rose 2.4% from the final quarter of 2021 and increased 2.6% from a year earlier. While there might be some recent softness in the spot market, for-hire contract freight tonnage remains solid and is only limited by lack of capacity, both drivers and equipment, at contract fleets.”
February’s increase was revised higher from our March 22 press release.
Compared with March 2021, the SA index increased 3.8%, which was the seventh straight year-over-year gain and the largest over that period. In February, the index was up 3.2% from a year earlier. In 2022, year-to-date and compared with same period in 2021, tonnage was up 2.6%.
The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 123.9 in March, 17.9% above the February level (105.1). 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. 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.