American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index decreased 3.5% in November after falling 0.7% in October. In November, the index equaled 113.5 (2015=100) compared with 117.6 in October.
“It’s tough to sugar coat November’s reading,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “It was the third decrease in the last four months and the index is down 7.2% since July. Additionally, November was the first month to see a year-over-year drop in the index since April 2017. While disappointing, it fits with the expected soft gross domestic product reading expected in the fourth quarter and reports of a soft fall freight season.”
It is important to note that ATA’s tonnage data is dominated by contract freight.
October’s reading was revised down compared with our November press release.
Compared with November 2018, the SA index fell 2.1%, the first year-over-year decline since April 2017 and the largest drop since February of that year. The index is up 3.3% year-to-date compared with the same period last year.
The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 115 in November, 7.9% below the October level (124.8). In calculating the index, 100 represents 2015.
Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing 70.2% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 10.77 billion tons of freight in 2017. Motor carriers collected $700.1 billion, or 79.3% 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.