Monday, March 19, 2018

ATA: Freight deceleration continues to weigh on tonnage; 1.4% fall in January

Tuesday, February 23, 2016
ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said the winter storms likely suppressed the January volume of freight. (The Trucker file photo)
ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said the winter storms likely suppressed the January volume of freight. (The Trucker file photo)

ARLINGTON, Va. — The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index fell 1.4 percent in January, following no change during December.

In January, the index equaled 132.8 (2000=100), down from 134.7 in December, an all-time high (along with November 2015).

Compared with January 2015, the SA index was flat, which was down from December’s 0.8 percent year-over-year gain. For all of 2015, compared with 2014, tonnage was up 2.6 percent.

ATA recently revised the seasonally adjusted index back five years as part of its annual revision. 

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 127.1 in January, which was 5.2 percent below the previous month (134.1).

“Clearly, 2016 started soft for truck tonnage,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “There was a deceleration in freight volumes during the second half of 2015 which continued into the first month of 2016. The winter storms that hit in January likely suppressed volumes some, but by falling 1.4 percent, I doubt tonnage would have been positive without the storms. So, that tells me that the inventory situation continues to weigh on truck freight volumes. The sooner the supply chain cleans out the excess stocks, the better for trucking.”

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 just under 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.

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