According to ATA American Trucking Trends 2020, the agency’s annual data compendium, the industry moved 11.84 billion tons of freight in 2019. This number is a year-over-year increase of 3% from the previous year’s 11.49 tons.
However, yearly revenue figures dropped slightly to $791.7 billion from $797.7 billion in 2018.
“Despite a challenging year, the data contained in American Trucking Trends shows the industry was in good shape entering the global pandemic,” said Bob Costello, ATA Chief Economist.
Trucking revenue comprised 80.4% of the country’s 2019 freight bill, up 0.12% from its 80.3% percentage of 2018. This means that for every dollar spent on freight transport, the industry made 80.4 cents.
Tonnage and revenue numbers both included truckload and less-than-truckload, as well as private carriage companies.
However, earlier this year, ATA reported that its seasonally-adjusted (SA) For-Hire Trucking Tonnage Index increased by 3.3% throughout the entirety of 2019, which was half of 2018’s annual gain. In December of 2019, the advances SA For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index rose 4% in December after having fallen by 3.4% the month prior.
“Last year was not a terrible year for for-hire truck tonnage, and despite the increase at the end of the year, 2019 was very uneven for the industry,” said Costello. “The overall annual gain masks the very choppy freight environment throughout the year, which made the market feel worse for many fleets. In December, strong housing starts helped advance the index forward.”
Additionally, ATA”s tonnage data is dominated by contract freight.
The change in tonnage hauled by fleets before any seasonal adjustments came out to 112.7 in December, which was 2% under November’s level of 115.1. To calculate the index, 100 represents 2015.
Acting as a barometer of America’s economy, trucking represents 70.2% of tonnage carried by all domestic freight transport, including both retail and manufactured goods.
To calculate tonnage index, ATA has been analyzing surveys from its members since the 1970s. Around the 5th day of each month, preliminary figures are released and are subject to change within the final report. This report details month-to-month and year-over-year results, as well as important economic comparisons and financial indicators for the industry and the economy as a whole.
The Trucking Trends 2020 report also shows the effects of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement and the benefits of cross-border trucking.
For example, trucks moved 67.7% of surface freight between Canada and the U.S. and 83.1% of cross-border trade with Mexico in 2019. This came out to $772 billion worth of goods across borders. Specifically, $343 billion in freight was moved across the U.S.-Canada border, which is a 1.5% year-over-year decrease from 2018. On the other hand, freight movement from across the Mexico border rose 1.2% year-over-year, coming out to $429 billion.
The top four items imported and exported across these borders were vehicles, mineral fuels, electrical machinery, and traditional machinery, according to the U.S. Trade Representative’s office. On average, about 16,000 trucks enter the United States from its bordering countries each day.
“As the North American economies become more interrelated, as well as global, trucking’s importance in international trade will only continue to grow,” the report said.
In 2019, 7.95 million Americans were employed throughout the trucking industry, a number up by 140,000 from 2018. Out of last year’s 3.6 million professional drivers, 41.5% were minorities, and 6.7% were women. A majority of carriers are on the smaller side, with 91.3% of fleets only operating six or fewer trucks, and 97.4% operating 20 or fewer.
“Sound policy relies on sound data, and American Trucking Trends contains the kind of up-to-date, reliable data that policymakers need to their [jobs],” said ATA President Chris Spear. “That is why Trends consistently is found in the offices of elected officials, regulators, and industry executives across the country.”
The Trends report has been extremely important for industry suppliers, trucking companies, logistics providers, public policy decision makers, and analysts.
“Trends continues to be an indispensable, one-stop resource for decision makers to have the latest information about the state of the trucking industry,” said Costello.