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Truck tonnage bounces back in July

Efforts to beat potential tariffs could mean a busier second half of 2019, but slower start to 2020

Truck tonnage jumped 6.6% in July from the previous month and 7.3% from a year earlier, American Trucking Associations reported. Last month’s gain followed a 1.2% month-over-month dip in June, leaving the index at 122.7.

“Tonnage in 2019 has been on a rollercoaster ride, plagued with large monthly swings, which continued in July as tonnage surged after falling significantly in May and June,” Bob Costello, ATA’s senior economist, said in a news release. “However, take out the month-to-month noise, and you see that truck tonnage is still on a nice upward path.

In an e-mail to Fleet Owner, Costello noted there was a bump in West Coast port activity during July as some shippers sought to avoid potential tariffs on Chinese goods. However, he said that “given the timing of recent announcements regarding tariffs it is unlikely July’s figures were significantly affected.”

Costello added: “We have heard from shippers that because of looming potential tariffs, especially those starting on Dec. 15, that they are accelerating orders, which may contribute to stronger than typical tonnage in the latter half of the year and then a weaker than normal early 2020.”

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets, was 122.8 in July. In calculating the index, ATA said a reading of 100 represents a baseline year of 2015.

ATA’s release also pointed out tonnage data is dominated by contract freight, which has performed better than spot market freight this year.” 

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