Trucking will dominate freight movement through 2017, ATA predicts

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Trucking will increase its share of the nation’s freight pool and continue to dominate domestic freight movement into the next decade, the American Trucking Associations reports in its newly released U.S. Freight Transportation Forecast to 2017. The forecast, which reports on the present and future of the entire U.S. freight transportation industry, predicts growth for all modes, but an even greater role for trucking in moving the nation’s economy.

“Trucks have steadily increased their share of the nation’s freight pool,” says Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer. “The trucking industry is a critical part of delivering the American quality of life and is meeting the needs and demands of the U.S. economy.”

The forecast projects trucking’s total tonnage share to rise to 69.2 percent in 2011 and to 69.5 percent by 2017 from 68.9 percent in 2005. Above-average growth in key truck commodities and the inherent flexibility and on-time delivery associated with trucking is driving industry growth. Trucking’s share of total revenue is projected to reach 85.1 percent by 2017, up from 84.3 percent last year.

Although trucks will remain the dominant mode of freight transport, other transport modes also are expected to carry more freight as overall tonnage in the United States increases. The forecast, produced for ATA by Global Insight, projects robust growth in rail intermodal and air freight; these two modes represent the fastest-growing segments during the forecast period, although neither mode will have more than 1.5 percent of the total tonnage market by 2017.

Total rail tonnage (including carloads and intermodal units) will edge up to 14.7 percent of domestic tonnage in 2017 from 14.5 percent in 2005. Water passage, which accounted for 6.6 percent of the domestic transport market in 2005, is expected to expand by 2.6 percent a year over the next six years and 1.9 percent a year thereafter to 2017. Pipeline transport, future volumes of which are tied to petroleum and natural gas demand, will drop from 9.9 percent in 2005 to 9.1 percent in 2017, according to the forecast.

In addition to key findings and projections for all freight transport modes, the forecast provides extensive analysis of the energy sector, including projections for crude oil prices. The trucking industry estimates that it will spend more than $98 billion for diesel fuel in 2006.

The U.S. Freight Transportation Forecast to 2017 can be purchased through ATA’s MarketPlace at