American Trucking Associations’s (ATA’s) advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index surged 8.2% in November, following a 0.3% drop during October. In November, the index equaled 142.4 (2000=100), up from 131.6 in October. The all-time high was 144 in February.
Compared with November 2015, the SA index increased 5.7%, the first year-over-year gain since August. In October, the year-over-year drop was 0.9%. Year-to-date, compared with the same period in 2015, tonnage was up 2.8%.
The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 135.9 in November, which was 1.7% below the previous month (138.2).
“2016 has been an interesting year for truck tonnage, with monthly gains and decreases as large as I can remember, which suggests seasonality is different this year,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “November’s substantial increase continued with the seesaw pattern that has persisted for much of the year.
“While I think the November gain overstates the strength in the freight market, I do believe we are seeing some improvement that will continue into 2017. Retail sales are good, the housing market is solid and the inventory overhang throughout the supply chain is coming down, all of which will help support truck freight volumes in 2017,” he said.
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.