Truck loadings explained

Truck loadings are the estimated number of truckloads originated in the United States plus truckloads that come to U.S. destinations from Mexico and Canada. It is tons divided by the average tons per load.

The trucking industry is extremely fragmented. Getting to half the interstate for-hire power unit capacity in the U.S. would require combining roughly the 2,400 largest operations, and that does not include the capacity provided by private fleets. Therefore, unlike the situation with rail, it is not feasible to extrapolate the entire market based on a sample of participants.

The fundamental unit of trucking activity in FTR’s Freight-cast model is a truck loading, which the model calculates based on an assessment of a wide array of economic activity related to freight, such as industrial production, agriculture, imports, etc. The first step is estimating tonnage generated by the economy, followed by assigning that tonnage to the various modes and estimating ton-miles based in part on the stage of goods – i.e., raw material through retail delivery, for example. The final step is calculating total truck loads by equipment type based on load density assumptions, such as weight and/or cube limits.

The estimates and assumptions generated by the model ultimately lead to the calculation of a truck loading: Total tons divided by average tons by commodity. FTR calculates loadings for the following equipment types: Dry van, refrigerated, flatbed, specialized, and dump/bulk. FTR also estimates and forecasts loadings by the type of commodity that is being moved.

Because truck loadings are calculated based on an econometric model, FTR’s historical estimates of loadings are subject to revision.