For-Hire Tonnage Index Bounces Back In January But Analysts Still Urging Caution

Arlington, Va. — Freight volumes bounced back in a big way in January from November and December, according to the American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index.

ATA reports their tonnage index increased 2.3% in January after falling 1% in December. In January, the index equaled 117.3, up from 114.7 in December.

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said he was pleased to see tonnage rebound so strongly. “After monthly declines in both November and December, tonnage snapped back in January. I was very pleased to see this rebound,” Costello said.

Compared with January 2018, the SA index increased 5.5%. In 2018, the index increased 6.7% over 2017, which was the largest annual gain since 1998.

However, Costello urged caution in analyzing the new data. “We should expect some moderation in tonnage this year as most of the key sectors that generate truck freight tonnage are expected to decelerate,” he said.


This positive freight data comes on the heels of another positive report last week from FTR. FTR’s Trucking Conditions Index (TCI) bounced back from its recent swoon spiking in December to a reading of 11.46.

FTR says the sharply improved December reading is “a result of strong m/m growth in volumes along with a favorable fuel environment.” However, FTR forecasts that this level will not be sustained in 2019 with readings falling back to the mid-single digit positive readings in January and moving steadily to more neutral conditions likely by Q4.

Avery Vise, FTR’s VP of Trucking, shared similar sentiments as Costello on the condition of the trucking market. “While we don’t anticipate truly negative trucking conditions at any point in 2019, we think we have seen the end in this cycle of the abnormally strong pro-carrier conditions that had held sway from the days following the 2017 hurricanes through the second quarter of 2018,” Vise said. “December 2018 probably was just one last taste of the good ol’ days of six months ago,” Vise said.


About ATA For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index 

ATA calculates the tonnage index based on surveys from its membership and has been doing so since the 1970s. This is a preliminary figure and subject to change in the final report issued around 5th day of each month. The report includes month-to-month and year-over-year results, relevant economic comparisons, and key financial indicators.

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