Monthly tonnage down 0.7% in May, year-over-year up 4.1%

The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index decreased 0.7 percent in May after falling 1.1 percent in April, lowering the adjusted index to 117.8, down from April’s level of 118.7.

Compared with May 2011, the adjusted index was 4.1 percent higher, the largest year-over-year increase since February. Year-to-date, compared with the same period last year, tonnage was up 3.8 percent.

The nonseasonally 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 percent 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.”

As a negative, 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 U.S. fiscal cliff at the end of the year. Annualized tonnage growth this year should be in the 3 percent to 3.9 percent range, he said.

ATA calculates the tonnage index based on surveys from its membership. The baseline year is 2000.

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