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Truck tonnage in July declined a seasonally adjusted 8.3% when compared with year-ago levels, and on a monthly basis was down 5.1% from June, American Trucking Associations reported Aug. 18.

The 8.3% drop is the fourth consecutive year-over-year monthly decline.

In July, the ATA For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index equaled 109.6, compared with June’s 115.5. (In calculating the index, 100 equals the year 2015.)

Bob Costello

Costello

“After a very strong June, for-hire contract freight tonnage, which dominates ATA’s index, slipped in July for a couple of reasons,” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said. “It is likely that tonnage was down because many fleets didn’t have the capacity to take advantage of stronger retail freight volumes. Therefore, much of that overflow freight moved to the spot market, which did increase in July.”

Costello said another factor in the decline in tonnage is that the industry is contracting slightly, and there is less available excess capacity.

“Other ATA data shows that for-hire truckload fleets are operating 3% fewer trucks this summer than a year earlier, so it can be difficult to take on a significant amount of additional freight,” he said. “Also, while retail volumes have snapped back strongly, manufacturing output and international trade freight is lagging well behind.”

Confirming Costello’s statement on the increase in spot rates, the DAT Truckload Volume Index released Aug. 13 showed the surge continues in spot market rates across all equipment types. DAT Freight and Analytics operates the industry’s largest online marketplace for spot truckload freight.

The DAT Truckload Volume Index, a measure of dry van, refrigerated and flatbed loads moved by truckload carriers, rose 2.1% from June and was 3.7% higher than July 2019.

Van, reefer and flatbed volumes and rates ended up positive month-over-month.

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 said that despite July’s decrease, its index was 3.3% above May’s recent low. Also, June’s index was revised slightly, up 8.9% over May from the 8.7% that was reported July 21.

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