Tonnage Rose 0.3% in 2021 over 2020
Arlington, Virginia — American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 1% in December after rising 0.5% in November. In December, the index equaled 114.7 (2015=100) compared with 113.5 in November.
“December’s gain was the fifth straight totaling 4.4%,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “In December, tonnage reached the highest level since March, but it was still 2.7% below the pre-pandemic high. This is likely due to the fact ATA’s data is dominated by contract freight. Contractor truckload carriers operated fewer trucks in 2021 compared with 2020 and it is difficult to haul significantly more tonnage with fewer trucks. But overall, we have seen a nice trend up that is reflective of a still growing goods-economy.”
November’s reading was revised down from our December 21 press release.
Compared with December 2020, the SA index rose 1.4%, which was the fourth straight year-over-year gain. In November, the index was up 1.6% from a year earlier. In 2021, compared with the average in 2020, tonnage was up 0.3%. In 2020, tonnage was off 4% compared with 2019.
The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 113.9 in December, 0.2% above the November level (113.8). 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 10.23 billion tons of freight in 2020. Motor carriers collected $732.3 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.