The American Trucking Associations’ (ATA) advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 5.7 percent in August, following a 2.1 percent decline during July. In August, the index equaled 141.8 (2000=100), up from 134.2 in July. The all-time high was 144 in February.
Compared with August 2015, the seasonally adjusted index rose 5.9 percent — the largest year-over-year gain since May, which was also 5.9 percent. In July, the year-over-year increase was 0.2 percent. Year-to-date, compared with the same period in 2015, tonnage was up 3.5 percent.
The not-seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 144.7 in August, which was 4.8 percent above the previous month (138.1).
“Volatility continues to reign in 2016. This month’s tonnage reading highlights this fact and underscores the difficulty in determining any real or clear trend in truck tonnage,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “What is clear to me is that normal seasonal patterns are not holding in 2016.”
Costello noted that during the month of August over the previous three years, the average change in not-seasonally adjusted tonnage was just 0.3 percent. This August, tonnage surged 4.8 percent.
“Despite a difficult-to-read August, I expect the truck freight environment to be softer than normal as well as continued choppiness until the inventory correction is complete. With moderate economic growth forecasted, truck freight will improve as progress is made with the inventory overhang,” he said.
Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing 68.8 percent of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled less than 10 billion tons of freight in 2014. Motor carriers collected $700.4 billion, or 80.3 percent 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 10th day of the month. The report includes month-to-month and year-over-year results, relevant economic comparisons and key financial indicators.