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Truck tonnage in August declined a seasonally adjusted 8.9% when compared with year-ago levels, marking the fifth consecutive year-over-year decline, American Trucking Associations reported Sept. 22.

The federation’s For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index was 107.5 in August compared with 113.9 in July. (The index equaled 100 in 2015.)

On a sequential basis, the month’s results were down 5.6% from July.

Bob Costello

Costello

Bob Costello, chief economist at ATA, said both the year-over-year and monthly declines in the tonnage index are a reflection of some trucking sectors continuing to struggle.

“The August softness suggests that freight is very uneven in the trucking industry,” Costello said. 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, for example.

“The industrial loads tend to be heavier, so they count more in a tonnage calculation than most consumer-related loads,” he said. “Fleets hauling for retailers are generally seeing strong freight volumes. Carriers hauling heavier industrial products generally saw softer volumes in August.”

Freight transportation is a barometer of U.S. economic health, and trucking represents 72.5% of tonnage carried by all modes. Trucks hauled 11.84 billion tons of freight in 2019, ATA said. Motor carriers collected $791.7 billion, or 80.4%, of the total revenue earned by all transport modes.

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