The American Trucking Associations’ advance seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index decreased 2.3% in May 2011 after decreasing a revised 0.6% in April 2011. April’s drop was slightly less than the 0.7% ATA reported May 25, 2011. The latest drop put the SA index at 112.3 (2000=100) in May, down from the April level of 114.9.
The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 115.9 in May, which was 2% above the previous month.
Compared with May 2010, SA tonnage climbed 2.7%, although this was the smallest year-over-year gain since February 2010. In April, the tonnage index was 4.8% above a year earlier.
“Truck tonnage over the last four months shows that the economy definitely hit a soft patch this spring,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “With our index falling in three of the last four months totaling 3.7%, it is clear why there is some renewed anxiety over the economic recovery.”
However, Costello added that he is 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 said.
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. Motor carriers collected $563.4 billion, or 81.2% of total revenue earned by all transport modes.