The American Trucking Associations’ numbers tracking tonnage hauled by for-hire trucking companies fell again in November, leading ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello to say, “It’s tough to sugar-coat November’s reading.”
ATA’s advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index dropped 3.5% in November after falling 0.7% in October. In November, the index equaled 113.5 (2015=100) compared with 117.6 in October. (October’s reading was revised down compared with ATA’s November press release.)
“It was the third decrease in the last four months and the index is down 7.2% since July,” Costello said. “Additionally, November was the first month to see a year-over-year drop in the index since April 2017. While disappointing, it fits with the expected soft gross domestic product reading expected in the fourth quarter and reports of a soft fall freight season.”
It is important to note that ATA’s tonnage data is dominated by contract freight.
Compared with November 2018, the SA index fell 2.1%, the first year-over-year decline since April 2017 and the largest drop since February of that year. The index is up 3.3% year-to-date compared with the same period last year.
The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 115 in November, 7.9% below the October level (124.8).
Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing 70.2% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods, ATA notes. The association calculates the tonnage index based on surveys from its membership and has been doing so since the 1970s.