American Trucking Associations’ (ATA’s) advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index slipped 1% in March, following a 0.1% decline during February (February’s percentage decrease was unchanged from the March 21, 2017, press release). In March, the index equaled 137.5 (2000=100), down from 138.8 in February. The all-time high was 142.7 in February 2016.
Compared with March 2016, the SA index rose 0.7%. In February, the index contracted 2.7% on a year-over-year basis. Year-to-date, compared with the same three months in 2016, the index is up 0.2%. For all of 2016, tonnage was up 2.5%.
The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 143.9 in March, which was 14.6% above the previous month (125.6).
“Like several other economic indicators, March truck tonnage was likely hurt by some late season winter storms,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “Despite last month’s dip, seasonally adjusted tonnage rose 1.2% during the first quarter overall from the previous quarter, and increased 0.2% from the same quarter last year.
“While I’m not expecting a surge in truck tonnage anytime soon, the signs remain mostly positive for freight, including lower inventory levels, better manufacturing activity, solid housing starts and good consumer spending,” Costello continued. “As a result, we can expect moderate growth going forward.”
For more analysis from Costello, watch this video.
Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing 70.1% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled nearly 10.5 billion tons of freight in 2015. Motor carriers collected $726.4 billion, or 81.2% 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 tenth day of the month. The report includes month-to-month and year-over-year results, relevant economic comparisons and key financial indicators.
ATA is the largest national trade association for the trucking industry.