The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased on a month-to-month basis for the first time since January of this year, edging 0.5 percent higher in May. April’s tonnage reading fell a revised 0.6 percent instead of the previously reported 1.1 percent drop.
The seasonally adjusted tonnage index equaled 114.8 (2000 = 100) in May. The not seasonally adjusted index increased 1.1 percent to 118.3 from 117.1 in April.
The seasonally adjusted index was 3.3 percent higher compared with May 2007, marking the seventh consecutive year-over-year increase. In April, the year-over-year gain was 2.2 percent.
ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said that May’s tonnage reading represents a positive step forward, but noted that freight volumes remain mixed across the industry amid continuously rising fuel prices and a weak economy.
“The fact that tonnage increased on a month-to-month basis for the first time in four months, as well as achieving its largest year-over-year gain since February of this year, is quite positive,” Costello said. “However, year-over-year comparisons continue to reflect the weakness of 2007 rather than robust growth in 2008.”
High diesel fuel prices continue to place a significant burden on motor carriers, he said. “Rising fuel prices are a double-edged sword for the industry,” Costello said. “Since trucks haul virtually all consumer goods at some point in the supply chain, the industry is significantly impacted both directly through high diesel prices and indirectly as consumers have less money to spend on truck-transported goods.”
Truck tonnage seems to have been moving in a range with a flat trend the last four years. I am surprised that the decline in automotive and housing related shipments is not having more of an impact (automotive related shipments alone are about 8% of total tonnage). Less than Truckload Carriers have been reporting drops in shipments the past few months, auto production is falling to 16 year lows, housing starts are at 17 year lows, supposedly massive amounts of freight is moving from trucks to trains, but truckload tonnage is back up to where it was in May 2006.