The American Trucking Associations’ advance seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index rose for the first time since February 2009, gaining 3.2 percent in May.
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 in May, up 0.4 percent from April.
Compared with May 2008, tonnage contracted 11 percent, which was the best year-over-year result in three months. Despite the improvement from April’s 13.2 percent plunge, May’s decrease is still historically large.
ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said the month-to-month improvement was encouraging, but cautioned that tonnage is unlikely to surge anytime soon.
“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.”
He 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.