Truck tonnage continues to rise and 2017 was a busy year for the estimated 3.5 million truck drivers across America. According to the American Trucking Association (ATA). truck tonnage index increased 3.7% compared to 2016.
This was the largest annual gain in truck tonnage since 2013. Although there was a significant annual increase in tonnage, December volume retracted somewhat, down 3.4% from the previous month.
“Despite the decline in December, last year was a solid year for truck tonnage, especially during the second half of 2017,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “I remain optimistic for 2018 for a host of reasons, including a pick-up in factory activity, better housing construction, solid retail sales, and an expected shot in the arm from the new tax law.”
In 2016, truck tonnage rose a mere 2.5% from the previous year, indicating an improvement in the trucking market during 2017.
Truck Tonnage Outlook for 2018
The Trucking industry generates nearly $700 billion in annual revenue and is considered the backbone of the American economy as over 70% of freight in America is transported by truck.
The outlook remains strong for trucking. Truck freight tonnage for 2018 could see a steady increase as Costello alluded to.
A portion of the optimism is tied to the flourishing home building market which expects a 10% increase this year according to the National Association of Realtors.
Meanwhile, American manufacturing output increased 7.0% in the fourth quarter of 2017.
Along with increases in consumer spending, these results indicate that truck freight will remain in high-demand for the foreseeable future.
What does all of this mean for freight carriers?
According to the ATA, there’s an estimated shortage of 50,000 drivers and the recent implementation of the ELD mandate could mean tighter truck capacity. The results could drive freight rates up for shippers if there is a true lack of capacity available.
“In addition to the sheer lack of drivers, fleets are also suffering from a lack of qualified drivers, which amplifies the effects of the shortage on carriers,” Costello said.
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