ARLINGTON, Va. — American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index rose 1.8% in February after falling 0.3% in January. In February, the index equaled 119.1 (2015=100) compared with 116.9 in January.
“Before any impacts from COVID-19, truck tonnage had a solid month in February. Last month, solid housing starts, high levels of retail sales and even a modest improvement in manufacturing activity all helped freight volumes,” said Bob Costello, ATA’s chief economist.
“With truck tonnage up nicely from a year earlier in February, the trucking industry was in a fairly good place before economic impacts hit from the health crisis,” he said. “Trucking volumes, early in the COVID-19 emergency, will be positive for consumer staples and other commodities before we see a slowdown as the economy contracts in the second quarter.”
ATA recently revised January’s index down from the initial reading that was noted in a Feb. 18 press release.
Compared with February 2019, the SA index rose 2.6%, which was preceded by a 0.4% year-over-year gain in January. During the first two months of 2020, the index rose 1.5% compared with the same two months last year. In 2019, the index was 3.3% above 2018.
The not-seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 108.2 in February, 5.2% below the January level (114.1). In calculating the index, 100 represents 2015.
Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing 71.4% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 11.49 billion tons of freight in 2018. Motor carriers collected $796.7 billion, or 80.3% 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, which is issued around the fifth day of each month. The report includes month-to-month and year-over-year results, relevant economic comparisons and key financial indicators.