Despite the current weakness in demand for freight transportation services caused by the nation's recession, the long-term outlook remains bright for all modes of freight transportation, the American Trucking Associations reports in its newly released ATA U.S. Freight Transportation Forecast to 2020.
IHS Global Insight, which conducted the study for ATA, projects that by 2020 total freight tonnage will grow more than 26 percent and total freight transportation revenue will grow 68 percent.
Trucks' share of total tonnage will rise gradually from 68.8 percent in 2008 to 70.9 percent by 2020. Rail's overall share (carload plus intermodal) of total tonnage will slip from 14.9 percent to 14.7 percent by 2020, according to the report.
Modes included in the forecast are truck (truckload, less-than-truckload, and private carriage), rail (carload and intermodal), domestic water, pipeline, and domestic air. The forecast not only projects volume and revenue growth for all modes of freight transportation, but it also provides the underlying forecasts from which those projections are made. For example, U.S. manufacturing output, which is in the midst of a sharp contraction, will grow at an annual average rate of 3.5 percent in the second half of the forecast period. The main driver of that growth will be high-tech production, which is projected to exceed 15 percent per year from 2015-2020.