Tonnage growth not as strong as in 2004

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The American Trucking Associations’ primary industry indicator rose in May as tonnage volumes increased slightly because of modest economic growth.

ATA’s advanced seasonally adjusted for-hire Truck Tonnage Index rose 0.7 percent in May to 115.1, following a 0.9 percent drop in April. The index is based on 100 in 2000, so that May’s reading means tonnage is up 15.1 percent since 2000.

Year-to-date, the tonnage index was 3.2 percent higher than the same period in 2004. That puts it in line with 2005 forecasts that the index will grow between 3.0 percent and 3.5 percent.

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said tonnage growth is good, but would not reach 2004 levels, when the economy was growing at a faster pace. At the same time, tonnage volumes are more modest this year because of a wide disparity between production levels for certain commodities. For example, domestic steel production is slipping, which could be a drag on tonnage figures going forward.

“The economy continues to decelerate from last year, but we are not in a significant downturn,” Costello said. “However, growth in freight volumes will be modest for the rest of this year compared with 2004, when our tonnage index grew 5.7 percent. I still believe there will be a favorable supply-demand market this coming fall freight season despite the moderation in volumes.”