Economic Watch: ATA tonnage index ventures into positive territory

by Today's Trucking

ARLINGTON, Va. – More good news has emerged from analysts, with the American Trucking Association’s For-Hire Truck Tonnage venturing into positive territory.

The measure – which is dominated by contract freight rather than spot market shipments — increased 3.7% in November after falling 5% in October.

“The 2020 seesaw pattern continued in November as typical seasonality is not holding this year,” said Bob Costello, the association’s chief economist.

But there is still room to grow. Compared to last November, the index contracted 3.8%, marking the eighth straight year-over-year decline. Year to date, truck tonnage is down 3.8% when compared to 2019.

“It was a nice gain, but the rebound was not enough to make up for October’s drop. Robust retail freight, helped by consumer spending, especially e-commerce, and very lean inventories helped truck tonnage last month,” he said.

“Strong single-family housing starts are also aiding freight tonnage, but lackluster restaurant, manufacturing and energy sectors remain a drag. I expect these softer industries to benefit from widespread COVID-19 vaccinations in 2021.”  

The ATA calculates the tonnage index based on member surveys.

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