American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 0.5% in August after falling 1.1% in July. In August, the index equaled 110.3 compared with 109.8 in July. 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.
“August’s monthly gain, while small, was the first since March,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “It is important to remember that ATA’s tonnage data is dominated by for-hire contract freight, with a very limited amount of spot market freight. I continue to believe that tonnage has not recovered to pre-pandemic levels for two main reasons—broader supply chain issues, like semiconductor shortages, as well as industry specific difficulties, including the driver shortage and lack of equipment.
“Despite some supply chain issues, demand remains strong for trucking services generally. Truckload carriers are operating fewer trucks than a year earlier, which makes it difficult to increase freight volumes significantly,” he added.
Compared with August 2020, the SA index fell 0.5%, which was the second straight year-over-year drop. In July, the index was down 2.9% from a year earlier. Year-to-date, compared with the same eight months in 2020, tonnage is down 0.2%.
The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 114.5 in August, 2.2% above the July level . 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.
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.