ATA report predicts continued growth in freight and trucking

A new report from Arlington, Va.-based American Trucking Associations projects freight volumes will increase by nearly 29 percent over the next 11 years.

“The outlook for all modes of freight transportation remains bright,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “Continued population growth, expansion of the energy sector and foreign trade will boost trucking, intermodal rail and pipeline shipments in particular.”

Costello said what he found most surprising was the growth of pipeline transportation. “Up until this report intermodal had been the fastest growing mode. This report indicated it’s no longer rail, it’s pipeline, pipes used to transport oil, gas or other products.”

Between 2015 and 2026, pipeline volumes will increase an average of 10.6 percent a year and their share of freight will increase from 10.8 percent in 2015 to 18.1 percent in 2026, the report said.

Growth in hauling is positive but does pose challenges, Costello said. “More hauling means economic growth but our infrastructure needs investment.”

ATA Spokesman Sean McNally, told TI News Daily, “We support the enactment of a long-term, well-funded highway bill with a focus on the most pressing freight transportation needs, namely the roads and bridges that move nearly 70 percent of all our freight. There are many ways to fund such a program, and our preference is and continues to be, an increase in the fuel tax, which is an efficient way to maintain the user pays principle that’s been the bedrock of our infrastructure funding system since before the Interstate Highway System was founded in 1956.”

The report is a collaboration between ATA and IHS Global Insight, and projects a 28.6 percent increase in freight tonnage and an increase in freight revenues of 74.5 percent to $1.52 trillion in 2026.

For the first time, this year’s forecast includes near-term projections for 2015 and 2016 and estimates for changes in the size of the Class 8 truck fleet. The number of Class 8 trucks in use will grow from 3.56 million in 2015 to 3.98 million by 2026, the report said.

The report found that trucking will still be the dominant mode of freight transportation, although the share of tonnage it hauls dips slightly. Even though truck tonnage grows over the forecast period, trucking’s share will dip from 68.8 percent in 2014 to 64.6 percent in 2026.