ATA August truck tonnage data points to uneven freight patterns

By LM Staff · September 22, 2020

August truck tonnage data, which was issued today by the American Trucking Associations (ATA) pointed to ongoing fluctuation within the sector.

The ATA’s advanced Seaonally Adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index for August—at 107.5 (2015=100)—was off 5.6%, from July, which was at 113.9, to August, following a 1.4% decrease, from June to July. On an annual basis, August SA tonnage was off 8.9%, marking the fifth consecutive month of annual declines, with SA tonnage down 3.4% on a year-to-date basis through August.

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 112.9 in August, down 3.9% compared to July’s 117.3 reading.

“The August softness suggests that freight is very uneven in the trucking industry,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello in a statement. “The trucking sectors that haul for the industrial and energy industries are not seeing the surge in freight like the consumer side of the economy. The industrial loads tend to be heavier, so they count more in a tonnage calculation than most consumer-related loads. Fleets hauling for retailers are generally seeing strong freight volumes. Carriers hauling heavier industrial products generally saw softer volumes in August.”

The ATA’s data is in line with the Cass Freight Index, which was released this week by Cass Information Systems.

Cass reported August shipments—at 1.099—were off 7.6% annually, improving over July’s 13.1% annual decrease, while rising 8% over July.

The report noted that August marks the best annual comparison going back to February, the last complete month of data prior to the onset of the pandemic, adding that the 8% sequential gain represents what he called acceleration in trend.

“The shipment index is now 19.1% higher than the April lows and at the highest absolute level since November 2019,” it said. “And we see it moving higher through year-end, as inventories remain relatively lean.”

September 22, 2020