ATA Truck Tonnage Index rose 0.5% in May

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The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased on a month-to-month basis for the first time since January of this year, edging 0.5 percent higher in May. April’s tonnage reading fell a revised 0.6 percent instead of the previously reported 1.1 percent drop.

The May tonnage index of 114.8 was 3.3 percent higher compared with May 2007, marking the seventh consecutive year-over-year increase; in April, the year-over-year gain was 2.2 percent. ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said that May’s tonnage reading represents a positive step forward, but noted that freight volumes remain mixed across the industry amid continuously rising fuel prices and a weak economy.

“The fact that tonnage increased on a month-to-month basis for the first time in four months, as well as achieving its largest year-over-year gain since February of this year, is quite positive,” Costello said. “However, year-over-year comparisons continue to reflect the weakness of 2007 rather than robust growth in 2008.”

High diesel fuel prices continue to place a significant burden on motor carriers, he said. “Rising fuel prices are a double-edged sword for the industry,” Costello said. “Since trucks haul virtually all consumer goods at some point in the supply chain, the industry is significantly impacted both directly through high diesel prices and indirectly as consumers have less money to spend on truck-transported goods.”

ATA calculates the tonnage index based on surveys from its membership and has been doing so since the 1970s. This is a preliminary figure and subject to change in the final report issued around the 10th day of the month. The report includes month-to-month and year-over-year results, relevant economic comparisons and key financial indicators. The baseline year for the index is 2000.