Ata Tonnage Dispatch Jan 2021 Graphic

ATA: Truck tonnage continues climb, jumps 1.4% in January

March 1, 2021
Trucking association's freight index has increased 3.3% over last four months, but still is off 2.8% from March 2020

American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 1.4% in January after rising 1.2% in December.

In January, the index equaled 114.6 (2015=100) compared with 113.1 in December, ATA said.

The association recently revised the seasonally adjusted index back five years as part of its annual revision.

“Over the last four months, the tonnage index has increased a total of 3.3%, which is obviously good news,” said Bob Costello ATA’s chief economist. “However, the index is still off 2.8% from the high in March as tonnage plunged 9% in April alone. I continue to expect a nice climb up for the economy and truck freight as we get more economic stimulus and increased vaccination numbers.”

Compared with January 2020, the SA index fell 2.1%, which was preceded by a 2.6% year-over-year decline in December. In 2020, the index was 4% below the 2019 average.

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 107.4 in January, 4.5% below the December level (112.4). 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 fifth day of each month. The report includes month-to-month and year-over-year results, relevant economic comparisons, and key financial indicators.        

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