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ATA truck tonnage index fell 4.5% in February; severe winter weather impacted much of the country

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ATA truck tonnage index fell 4.5% in February; severe winter weather impacted much of the country

March 24, 2021 - 13:02
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ARLINGTON, VA, March 23, 2021 (Press Release) -American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index decreased 4.5% in February after rising 1.8% in January. In February, the index equaled 110 (2015=100) compared with 115.2 in January.

“February’s drop was exacerbated, perhaps completely caused, by the severe winter weather that impacted much of the country during the month,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “Many other economic indicators were also soft in February due to the bad storms, but I continue to expect a nice climb up for the economy and truck freight as economic stimulus checks are spent and more people are vaccinated.”

January’s gain was revised up slightly to 1.8% from our February 23 press release.

Compared with February 2020, the SA index fell 5.9%, which was preceded by a 1.6% year-over-year decline in January. In 2020, the index was 4% below the 2019 average.

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 99.4 in February, 7.9% below the January level (107.9). In calculating the index, 100 represents 2015. ATA’s For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index is dominated by contract freight as opposed to spot market freight.

Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing 72.5% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 11.84 billion tons of freight in 2019. Motor carriers collected $791.7 billion, or 80.4% 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 5th day of each month. The report includes month-to-month and year-over-year results, relevant economic comparisons, and key financial indicators.