American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index rose 1.8% in February after falling 0.3% in January. In February, the index equaled 119.1 (2015=100) compared with 116.9 in January.
“Before any impacts from COVID-19, truck tonnage had a solid month in February,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “Last month, solid housing starts, high levels of retail sales, and even a modest improvement in manufacturing activity all helped freight volumes.
“With truck tonnage up nicely from a year earlier in February, the trucking industry was in a fairly good place before economic impacts hit from the health crisis. Trucking volumes, early in the COVID-19 emergency, will be positive for consumer staples and other commodities before we see a slowdown as the economy contracts in the second quarter,” he said.
ATA recently revised January’s index down from the initial reading in our press release on February 18, 2020.
Compared with February 2019, the SA index rose 2.6%, which was preceded by a 0.4% year-over-year gain in January. During the first two months of the year, the index rose 1.5% compared with the same two months last year. In 2019, the index was 3.3% above 2018.
The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 108.2 in February, 5.2% below the January level (114.1). In calculating the index, 100 represents 2015.
Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing 71.4% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 11.49 billion tons of freight in 2018. Motor carriers collected $796.7 billion, or 80.3% 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.