US for-hire truck tonnage fell 1.1 percent in July from June on a seasonally adjusted basis but was 5.1 percent higher than July 2021, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) said Tuesday. The ATA for-hire truck tonnage index signaled freight demand remained strong despite an economic slowdown.
The annualized increase in ATA’s tonnage index, as well as other indicators, runs counter to reports that trucking demand is weakening ahead of the fourth quarter and the year-end holidays.
The Cass Freight Index for July showed shipments were essentially flat year over year, rising 0.4 percent, and down 1.7 percent from June before seasonal adjustment.
Most of those reports, however, focus on the truckload spot market, which has lost freight to contract carriers this year, sparking a significant spot price correction that is beginning to erode contract rate gains. But the spot truckload market is a small part of the total market for truck freight.
“Despite the dip from June, tonnage remains at elevated levels and increased significantly from a year earlier,” Bob Costello, ATA ‘s chief economist, said in a statement. Costello does see signs, however, that the year-over-year tonnage gap is beginning to close after peaking in March.
“While tonnage is much stronger than a year ago, the monthly gains have moderated as the year has gone on,” said Costello. The year-over-year gain in June was recalculated at 5.6 percent. Year-to-date, the index shows truck tonnage 3.4 percent higher than the first seven months of 2021.
Non-seasonally adjusted data show the actual number of tons moved by truck dropped more sharply in July, falling 5 percent, but was about 2.8 percent higher than a year ago.