ATA Truck Tonnage Index decreases in May 2012 for second straight month

The American Trucking Associations' advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index declined 0.7% in May 2012 after falling 1.1% in April. (April's loss was the same as ATA reported May 22.)

This latest drop lowered the SA index to 117.8 (2000=100), down from April's level of 118.7. Compared with May 2011, the SA index was 4.1% higher, the largest year-over-year increase since February 2012. Year-to-date, versus the same period in 2011, tonnage was up 3.8%.

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 124.5 in May, which was 6.5% above the previous month.

“Two straight months of contractions is disappointing,” said Bob Costello, ATA chief economist. “The drops in tonnage are reflective of the broader economy, which has slowed. The good news is that the decrease in fuel prices will help support retail sales going forward, which is a big part of truck tonnage.”

Costello said he's concerned about businesses sitting on cash instead of hiring more workers or spending it on capital, both of which would give the economy and tonnage a shot in the arm, as they are worried about Europe and the so-called US fiscal cliff at the end of the year. He also reiterated hs comment in May: “Annualized tonnage growth should be in the 3% to 3.9% range this year.”

Trucking serves as a barometer of the US economy, representing 67.2% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 9 billion tons of freight in 2010.

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