ATA Truck Tonnage Index increased 3.2% in May

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The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index rose for the first time since February 2009, gaining 3.2 percent in May. However, May’s increase, which raised the SA index to 102.3, wasn’t large enough to offset the March-through-April cumulative reduction of 6.7 percent.

The not seasonally adjusted (NSA) index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 102.0 in May, up 0.4 percent from April. Compared with May 2008, tonnage contracted 11.0 percent, which was the best year-over-year result in three months. However, despite the improvement from April’s 13.2 percent plunge, May’s decrease still is large historically.

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said the month-to-month improvement was encouraging, but cautioned that tonnage is unlikely to surge anytime soon. Costello also noted that he doesn’t expect tonnage to deteriorate much further and that any growth in tonnage over the next few months is likely to be modest.

“I am hopeful that the worst is behind us, but I just don’t see anything on the economic horizon that suggests freight transportation is ready to explode,” Costello said. “The consumer is still facing too many headwinds, including employment losses, tight credit, rising fuel prices and falling home values, to name a few, that will make it very difficult for household spending to jump in the near term.”

ATA calculates the tonnage index based on surveys from its membership. The report includes month-to-month and year-over-year results, relevant economic comparisons and key financial indicators. The baseline year is 2000.