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Truck tonnage in September declined a seasonally adjusted 2.7% when compared with year-ago levels, marking the sixth consecutive month of year-over-year declines, American Trucking Associations said Oct. 20.

However, when measured month-to-month, the index increased 6.7% in September, after declining 5.3% in August. In September the index equaled 115.1 compared with 107.9 in August. (The index equaled 100 in 2015.)

“September had a nice recovery after a significant decline in August,” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said in a statement. “The truck freight market continues to be bifurcated, with strength in retail and home construction, but some continued weakness in industrial freight. During the third quarter, truck tonnage increased 2.4% over the second quarter, but fell 5.3% from a year earlier.”

Year-to-date, tonnage is down 3.3% compared with the same period in 2019. However, Costello told TT that much of that decline was in March, April and May, when the U.S. economy fell into a deep recession amid the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, when millions of Americans were laid off or furloughed from their jobs.

“There were pockets of strength in March and April — people went to the grocery stores and bought a lot of stuff — but the economy shut down,” he said. “Even though there were pockets of strength back then, grocery stores and the like, there was not a lot of freight to be moved.”

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.

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