American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 1 percent in December, following a decrease of 0.9 percent during November. In December, the index equaled 135.6 (2000=100), up from 134.3, and 0.1 percent below the all-time high of 135.8 reached in January 2015.
Compared with December 2014, the seasonally adjusted index increased 1.1 percent, which was better than November’s 0.2 percent year-over-year gain. For all of 2015, compared with 2014, tonnage was up 2.6 percent.
The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 132.7 in December, which was 2.9 percent above the previous month (129).
“Tonnage ended 2015 on a strong note, but it was not strong for the year as a whole,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “With year-over-year gains averaging just 1.2 percent over the last four months, there was a clear deceleration in truck tonnage.
“At the expense of sounding like a broken record, I remain concerned about the high level of inventories throughout the supply chain. The total business inventory-to-sales record is at the highest level in over a decade, excluding the Great Recession period. This will have a negative impact on truck freight volumes over the next few months at least. And, this inventory cycle is overriding any strength from consumer spending and housing at the moment.”
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.