Arlington, Virginia — American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index decreased 6.3% in October after gaining 5.7% in September. In October, the index equaled 106.8 (2015=100) compared with 114 in September.
“While there are indications that the economy is losing momentum, I believe October’s tonnage softness was more of a seasonal issue during a pandemic than anything else,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “Typical seasonality is off this year and it was a reason why October was down so much. Not seasonally adjusted tonnage was down a fraction as much as normal over the last five years during September, leading to a big seasonally adjusted gain. However, that means October’s not seasonally adjusted tonnage grew less than half as much as it typically does, leading to a big drop in the seasonally adjusted figure. There are plenty of carriers still saying that tonnage, retail tonnage in particular, is good.”
September’s gain was revised down to 5.7% from our October 20 press release.
Compared with October 2019, the SA index contracted 8.7%, the seventh straight year-over-year decline. Year-to-date, compared with the same period in 2019, tonnage is down 3.9%.
The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 114.4 in October, 2.7% above the September level (111.4). 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.
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.
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.