American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index fell 1.7% in April after decreasing 2.8% in March. In April, the index equaled 112.7 (2015=100) compared with 114.7 in March.
“While the broader economy continues to surprise and thus far stave off an expected recession, the freight economy is starkly different,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “The goods portion of the economy is soft and as a result, even contract truck freight is now falling, albeit not nearly as much as the spot market. The tonnage index hit the lowest level since September 2021 in April and has now fallen on a year-over-year basis for two straight months.”
Compared with April 2022, the SA index decreased 3.4%, which was the largest year-over-year decrease since February 2021. In March, the index was down 2.4% from a year earlier.
The not-seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 109 in April, 9.5% below the March level (120.4). 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.
According to ATA, trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing 72.2% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 10.93 billion tons of freight in 2021. Motor carriers collected $875.5 billion, or 80.8% of the 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 is 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.
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