ATA’s truck tonnage readings trend down but remain on solid footing

The ATA’s advanced seasonally-adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index dipped 0.8% from August, which hit 112.7 (2015=100) to September, coming in at 111.8. This followed a 2% (which was raised following an originally reported 1.8%) decrease from July to August and a 1.9% increase from June to July. Compared to September 2017, SA tonnage headed up 2.9%, which was down from August’s 4.2% annual spread. Through the first nine months of 2018, SA tonnage is up 7% annually.

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Truck tonnage readings for the month of September were mixed, due in part to tougher annual comparisons, according to data issued this week by the American Trucking Associations (ATA).

The ATA’s advanced seasonally-adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index dipped 0.8% from August, which hit 112.7 (2015=100) to September, coming in at 111.8. This followed a 2% (which was raised following an originally reported 1.8%) decrease from July to August and a 1.9% increase from June to July.

Compared to September 2017, SA tonnage headed up 2.9%, which was down from August’s 4.2% annual spread. Through the first nine months of 2018, SA tonnage is up 7% annually. 

The ATA’s not seasonally-adjusted (NSA) index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by fleets before any seasonal adjustment and the metric ATA says fleets should benchmark their levels with, was 110.2 (2015=100) in September, which trailed August’s 120.1 by 8.2%.

“Truck freight slowed at the end of the third quarter,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello in a statement. “As anticipated, the year-over-year gains have slowed on strength a year earlier, but there is no doubt that freight softened in August and September. Despite the decreases late in the quarter, based on July’s strength, third quarter tonnage rose 0.1% from the second quarter and 5.2% from the same period in 2017.”

Speaking on a recent conference call hosted by investment firm Stifel earlier this year, Costello said that there are a few drivers of the current solid freight activity, including consumer spending, construction activity, manufacturing activity, and inventory levels throughout the supply chain.

“[L]ooking at the over-the-road TL and LTL markets, I like to look at factory output,” he said. “2018 is shaping up to be the highest level of production since 2007, and 2019 should be the highest on record. If we look at year-over-year growth rates, we're going to go essentially no growth in the sector from 2015 and 2016 to 2.8% growth this year and over 3% growth next year.”


About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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Article Topics

ATA · tonnage · Trucking · All Topics
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