ATA’s truck tonnage data is mostly positive in January

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor ·

February 23, 2021

Truck tonnage data readings, for the month of January, were mostly positive, according to data issued today by the American Trucking Associations (ATA).

The ATA’s advanced Seasonally Adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index for January—at 114.6 (2015=100)—headed up 1.4%, from December to January, following a 1.2% increase, from November to December, which came in at 113.1.  

On an annual basis, January’s SA tonnage reading slipped 2.1% annually, which represented an improvement over December’s 2.6% annual decline, with all of 2020 down 4% compared to 2019. ATA officials pointed out that its For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index “is dominated by contract freight as opposed to spot market freight.”

The ATA’s not seasonally-adjusted (NSA) index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by fleets before any seasonal adjustment and the metric ATA says fleets should benchmark their levels with, came in at 107.4, which was 4.5% below December’s 112.5.

“Over the last four months, the tonnage index has increased a total of 3.3%, which is obviously good news” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello in a statement. “However, the index is still off 2.8% from the high in March as tonnage plunged 9% in April alone. I continue to expect a nice climb up for the economy and truck freight as we get more economic stimulus and increased vaccination numbers.”

In a recent interview with LM, Costello explained that the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially early on, had a major impact on the trucking market, with a major rush on certain consumer staples like food and paper products prior to conditions plummeting around May 2020.

But by the middle of 2020 and into the fall he said conditions saw material improvements, due to things like increased e-commerce activity and people buying more goods than services.

“E-commerce is a big part of that,” he said. “And certain parts of trucking are up still despite the pandemic and is really related to the buying of consumer goods…certainly around e-commerce. Some of the freight volumes around single-family housing starts is strong, too. Temperature-controlled volumes related to restaurants is still off but related to grocery stores is way up. It has been unusual in that there have been different outcomes depending on which type of supply chains you are in and what type of freight you are hauling.”   

About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor

Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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