Trucking industry still struggling despite uptick in tonnage

Published on
August 31, 2023
A truck in Arizona.

An increase in the truck tonnage index in May and June signified heightened demand for trucking freight, while the field overall remains in "recession territory," according to data from the American Trucking Association (ATA).

The ATA's for-hire truck tonnage index showed a 2.1 percent increase in June, following a 1.2 percent increase in May. Still, experts remain concerned about the industry's performance, as growth is still down year over year

“The index continues to fall from a year earlier and is off 1.9 percent from its recent peak in September 2022,” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said.

The ATA attributes the decline to lower consumer spending, reduced home construction, lower factory output, and consolidated shipping from the Covid-19 pandemic continuing to create complications for the industry. 

“However, the magnitude of the year-over-year declines is improving, perhaps pointing to a bottom in the freight market,” Costello said. 

The U.S. trucking industry is still reeling from the bankrutpcy of Yellow Corp., one of the largest trucking companies in the country. The filing resulted in the loss of more than 30,000 jobs.

Trucker Tools’ Chief Operating Officer Rohit Bezewada told FreightWaves soft volumes, weak spot rates, and cost inflation have forced many truckers to sell their rigs and leave their jobs. But he said there is optimism among those left in the sector that brighter times are ahead.

“I have seen glimmers of hope as of late through conversations with customers,” Bezewada said. “Inventory levels are starting to decrease. Wholesalers and retailers are starting to lower stock levels, which is good news for the supply chain industry, as well as the broader macroeconomy.”

Photo courtesy of Tverdokhlib/Shutterstock

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