ATA Truck Tonnage Index Sets Record in May

The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index went up 2.3% in May to reach its highest level on record.

After falling 0.2% in April, the May index equaled 126.0 (2000=100) versus 123.2 in April. That’s the highest level ever, surpassing December 2011(124.3). Compared with May 2012, the SA index surged 6.7%, which is the largest year-over-year gain since December 2011. Year-to-date, compared with the same period in 2012, the tonnage index is up 4.5%.

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 132.7 in May, which was 5.4% above the previous month (125.9).

“After bouncing around in a fairly tight band during the previous three months, tonnage skyrocketed in May,” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said. Some of the increase is attributable to factory output rising in May for the first time since February (+0.2%) and retail sales performing stronger than expected in May (+0.6%). Costello added, “The 6.8% surge in new housing starts during May obviously pushed tonnage up as home construction generates a significant amount of truck tonnage.”

“While we heard good reports regarding freight levels during May, I have to admit I am a little surprised at the large gain in tonnage,” Costello said. He added that tonnage continues to outpace the number of loads hauled as heavy freight (e.g., housing construction materials and sand and water for hydraulic fracturing) is outperforming box trailer (i.e., dry van) freight.
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