January Tonnage Index Improves Over December and Year-Ago Levels

Heavy truck traffic on I-81 near Salem, Va. (Virginia Department of Transportation)

American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 2.3% in January after falling 1% in December.

In January, the index equaled 117.3, up from 114.7 in December. In calculating the monthly index, 100 represents 2015.

Compared with January 2018, the SA index increased 5.5%. In 2018, the index increased 6.7% over 2017, which was the largest annual gain since 1998.

Meanwhile, the not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 113.1 in January, which was 2.9% above the previous month’s 109.9.

“After monthly declines in both November and December, tonnage snapped back in January,” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said in a statement. “I was very pleased to see this rebound.”



At the same time, Costello said to expect some moderation in 2019 tonnage “as most of the key sectors that generate truck freight tonnage are expected to decelerate.”

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

Trucking is a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing 70.2% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 10.77 billion tons of freight in 2017. Motor carriers collected $700.1 billion, or 79.3% 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 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. — Transport Topics