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August 1, 2019 1:45 PM, EDT

ATA Trends Report Reveals Industry’s Revenue, Trade Highlights

Trends Report Traffic on a highway in Missouri. (Missouri Department of Transportation)

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The trucking industry’s total revenue and cross-border operations experienced significant increases last year, according to the recently released American Trucking Trends report by American Trucking Associations.

Revenue climbed to $796.7 billion in 2018, an increase from $700.1 billion in the year previously, the report concluded. Trucks also were responsible for hauling 11.49 billion tons of freight in 2018, which amounted to 71.4% of the tonnage freight. In all, the industry’s revenue made up 80.3% of the country’s freight bill.

On the international front, trade with Mexico and Canada played a key role for the industry. Trucking resulted in 67.4% of the movement of surface freight between the United States and its neighbor to the north. Cross-border trade with the country’s southern neighbor was 83.5%.

“Canada and Mexico now rank one and three, respectively, in terms of the top U.S. trading partners. China surpassed Mexico as our second-largest trading partner in 2006. … As the North American and global economies become more interrelated, trucking’s importance in international trade will only continue to grow,” according to the report.

ATA is among the groups urging Congress to adopt a new trade agreement that would replace NAFTA. In a letter to congressional leaders in July, ATA President Chris Spear noted, “Trade and trucking are interdependent, and the vitality of the U.S. economy depends on a dynamic trucking industry to deliver goods throughout the supply chain. If the United States neglects to modernize the current NAFTA framework, it could lead to more production overseas and irreparably reduce freight movement across the continent.”

He added, “Ratifying the [United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement] will ensure that the U.S., Canada, and Mexico continue to benefit from an alliance that has promoted economic growth and innovation, and we look forward to working with Congress to make this a reality.”

American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear

Spear

Congress has yet to vote on the new deal. Democrats in control of the House have raised concerns about labor practices and environmental regulations that could be affected by the deal. Marc Short, chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, told reporters July 31: “For many years, [Democrats] denounced NAFTA, and if they don’t want to vote on USMCA, they’re basically telling their constituents that they’re happy with NAFTA.”

The ATA report also highlighted safety improvements industrywide. Nearly 8 million people were employed in trucking-related jobs. Out of that, professional drivers make up 3.5 million. Women are 6.6% of drivers, while minorities were 40.4% of truckers. Most carriers are classified as small companies, with 91.3% of fleets operating six or fewer trucks and 97.4% operating 20 or fewer trucks.

Also, the for-hire truckload revenue per mile index rose 15.9% in 2018 from the previous year. The number of U.S. truck registrations, both for private and commercial vehicles, rose by 3.7% from 2016 to 2017. And total U.S. truck sales increased 6.3% from 2017 to 2018.

Additionally, the report determined the trucking industry paid $17.7 billion in total federal highway-user taxes in 2017.

ATA's Bob Costello

Costello

“ATA believes good decisions are based on good data, and ‘Trends’ is full of strong data, which is why it finds a home on the desks of elected officials, regulators and executives across the supply chain,” Spear said in a statement accompanying the report’s release.

“2018 was a year of dynamic growth for the trucking industry,” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello added. “ ‘Trends’ is a simple, one-stop resource to see where our industry is so executives and policymakers can make informed decisions about where it is going.”