An index of American trucking freight slumped heavily in March after showing a brief spark in February, showing its first year-over-year decrease since August 2021, according to the American Trucking Associations (ATA).
The ATA’s advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index fell 5.4% in March after increasing 0.9% in February. By the raw numbers, the March index equaled 111.6 compared with 118 in February, compared to a baseline of 100 representing 2015 conditions.
Compared with March 2022, the SA index decreased 5%, which was the first year-over-year decrease since August 2021. In February, the index was up 1.9% from a year earlier. During a strong first quarter, tonnage was 0.6% below the same three-month period in 2022.
The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 117.2 in March, 9.3% above the February level (107.2). ATA notes that the index is dominated by contract freight as opposed to spot market freight.
“After increasing a total of 2.6% during the three previous months, March’s sequential decline was the largest monthly drop since April 2020 during the start of the pandemic,” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said in a release. “Falling home construction, decreasing factory output, and soft retail sales all hurt contract freight tonnage – which dominates ATA’s tonnage index – during the month. Despite the largest year-over-year drop since October 2020, contract freight remains more robust than the spot market, which continues to see prolonged weakness.”