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July 27, 2015 2:30 PM, EDT

Freight Volumes Projected to Grow 29% Through 2026, ATA Report Says

Freight volumes are projected to increase by nearly 29% over the next 11 years, according to a report released by American Trucking Associations on July 27.

"U.S. Freight Transportation Forecast to 2026" projects a 28.6% increase in freight tonnage and an increase in freight revenues of 74.5% to $1.52 trillion in 2026. 

It also estimates the Class 8 truck fleet will grow from 3.56 million in 2015 to 3.98 million in 2026.

“ 'Forecast' is a valuable resource for executives and decision makers in both the private and public sector,” ATA President Bill Graves said. “Knowing where the industry and economy is headed can help shippers and fleets make key business decisions and instruct lawmakers and regulators on the best policies to move our economy forward.”

Although the share of tonnage trucks haul is projected to dip from 68.8% in 2014 to 64.6% in 2026, the forecast states that trucking will still remain the dominant mode of freight transportation.

“The outlook for all modes of freight transportation remains bright,” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said. “Continued population growth, expansion of the energy sector and foreign trade will boost trucking, intermodal rail and pipeline shipments in particular.”

Costello said that ATA included historical data for all modes of freight transportation dating to 1990.

Because of significant growth in energy production in the United States, pipelines will benefit more than other modes. Between 2015 and 2026, pipeline volumes will increase an average of 10.6% a year, and their share of freight will increase from 10.8% in 2015 to 18.1% in 2026. There is an expected gain of 128% in tonnage alone.

“As a result, this tremendous growth for pipelines will eat into the market share of other modes, but all sectors will see gains in actual tonnage,” Costello said in the report.

On the other hand, railroads’ share of freight tonnage is forecast to drift down from 14.2% in 2015 to 12.3% in 2026. That being said, intermodal freight will be the second-fastest growing mode at 4.5% annually through 2021 and increase 5.3% per year after.

This year’s report also includes near-term projections for 2015 and 2016.

The report, available through ATA Business Solutions, is a collaboration between ATA and IHS Global Insight.