Freight Tonnage Set to Grow 25 Percent by 2021

Freight Tonnage Set to Grow 25 Percent by 2021

The nation's freight tonnage shrank almost 13 percent last year, but is set to expand 25 percent by 2021, according to a report by the American Trucking Associations.

Freight revenue will grow 69 percent through 2021, the ATA U.S. Freight Transportation Forecast says, though it notes it is starting from the low point of the recession.

The forecast uses 2009 as a baseline, and projects freight tonnage and revenue by mode to 2021, as well as the number of trucks that will be needed to move the freight.

Trucking's share of U.S. freight will rise slightly, from 68 percent of total tonnage in 2009 to 70.7 percent by 2021, the ATA report says.

The report expects trucking's big competitor, rail, to lose a small amount of total tonnage, with its share dropping from 14.7 percent in 2009 to 14.1 percent in 2021.

Figures on intermodal growth -- fast becoming the focus of federal transportation policy -- were not released. Water and pipeline tonnage will grow slightly, the report said.

The report forecasts a 36 percent increase in air freight tonnage over the 12-year period, with domestic air tonnage rising to 18.4 million tons by 2021.

"All modes of freight transportation were impacted by the 'Great Recession,' but I'm growing more optimistic about the long-term outlook," said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. "I think better days do lie ahead for the freight hauling business."

-- Contact William B. Cassidy at wcassidy@joc.com.