May truck tonnage sees some gains but trends down due to tough annual comps, reports ATA

The ATA’s advanced seasonally-adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index for May, at 114 (2015=100) fell 6.1% compared to April’s 121.8, which was up 7% over March. And compared to May 2018, SA tonnage eked out a 0.9% gain, which ATA said marks its smallest annual SA tonnage gain going back to April 2017.

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Decreased freight activity in recent months remained a key theme for May truck tonnage volumes, according to truck tonnage data issued today by the .

The ATA’s advanced seasonally-adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index for May, at 114 (2015=100) fell 6.1% compared to April’s 121.8, which was up 7% over March.

And compared to May 2018, SA tonnage eked out a 0.9% gain, which ATA said marks its smallest annual SA tonnage gain going back to April 2017.

The ATA’s not seasonally-adjusted (NSA) index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by fleets before any seasonal adjustment and the metric ATA says fleets should benchmark their levels with, was 119.1 (2015=100) in May, topping April’s 117.4 by 1.5%

“As expected, tonnage corrected in May from the surprising surge in April,” said  in a statement. “The economy is still growing, but the recent volatility in truck tonnage fits with a broader economy that is showing more mixed signals. The good news is if you ignore recent highs and lows, tonnage appears to be leveling off, albeit at a high level.” 

Looking at the state of the freight economy at the RILA Link 2019 Supply Chain Conference earlier this year, Costello said that people need to set their expectations differently for 2019 when compared to a very good 2018, in that the economy will grow, albeit at a slower rate.

While GDP may not meet 2018’s strong robust levels, Costello made it clear that key economic fundamentals remain firmly intact.

These fundamentals include things like still strong consumer activity, as well as a solid job market.

Addressing the latter, he said that there are currently more job openings than there are unemployed people, which “does not usually happen.” What’s more, he raised the question of what happens when full employment is reached, as it relates to wages. And the short answer was that wages go up, which obviously continues to support economic growth and freight activity.


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