• Survey Shows Trucking Activity Still Rising, but at a Slower Pace

  • Survey Shows Trucking Activity Still Rising, but at a Slower Pace

    Trucking activity rose modestly in January, with new data showing that
    truck-transported tonnage peaked last July, according to a trucking trade group.

    The American Trucking Associations say its seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck
    Tonnage Index rose 0.1% in January, slowing significantly from December's 0.5%
    increase.

    For all of 2019, the index -- which represents the change in tonnage hauled by
    fleets -- was 3.3% higher than in 2018.

    News of the small growth last month reinforced earlier ATA reports indicating
    that trucking growth was entering a period of slower growth after several years
    of strong performance.

    "Over the last two months, the tonnage index has increased 0.6%, which is
    obviously good news," said Bob Costello, chief economist for the ATA. "However,
    after our annual revision, it is clear that tonnage peaked in July 2019 and,
    even with the recent gains, is down 1.8% since then. Softness in manufacturing
    and elevated inventories continues to weigh on the truck freight tonnage."

    Last month's index was 0.8% higher than from the same month a year earlier.
    December, by comparison, saw a 3.1% year-over-year gain.

    The ATA tonnage data is dominated by contract freight, which represents about
    75% of trucking activity in the United States. Earlier this month, Costello
    told attendees at the NATSO Connect convention in Denver that while contract
    trucking remains strong, the spot trucking market contracted by about 12%
    during 2019. In the first three quarters of 2019, the number of fleets going
    out of business was 2.5 times the total number that had closed doors in 2018,
    Costello said.

    The industry is also still suffering from an oversupply of transport, leading
    to weaker freight rates. Costello said he expected the industry to continue
    facing headwinds through the first half of 2020, with the situation improving
    in the second half of the year as fleets become right-sized.

    The ATA said that trucking generally serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy,
    representing 71.4% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight
    transportation.

    The tonnage index is calculated based on surveys from ATA membership. The ATA
    bills itself as the largest national trade association for the trucking
    industry.

    --Reporting by Steve Cronin, scronin@opisnet.com; Editing by Michael Kelly,
    michael.kelly3@ihsmarkit.com



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