Monthly tonnage index down 2.3% in May; year-over-year up 2.7%

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Ata Tonnage Index

The American Trucking Associations’ advance seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index decreased 2.3 percent in May after decreasing a revised 0.6 percent in April. April’s drop was slightly less than the 0.7 percent ATA reported on May 25, but the latest drop put the adjusted index at 112.3 in May, down from the April level of 114.9.

The nonseasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 115.9 in May, which was 2 percent above the previous month. Compared with May 2010, adjusted tonnage climbed 2.7 percent, although this was the smallest year-over-year gain since February 2010. In April, the tonnage index was 4.8 percent above a year earlier.

“Truck tonnage over the last four months shows that the economy definitely hit a soft patch this spring,” says ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “With our index falling in three of the last four months totaling 3.7 percent, it is clear why there is some renewed anxiety over the economic recovery.”

However, Costello remains cautiously optimistic that freight volumes will improve in the second half of the year along with economic activity. “With oil prices falling and some of the Japan-related auto supply problems ending, I believe this was a soft patch and not a slide back into recession, and we should see better, but not great, economic activity in the months ahead,” he says.

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.