American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index rose 2.4% in May after decreasing 1.7% in April. In May, the index equaled 115.4 (2015=100) compared with 112.7 in April.
“Tonnage had a nice gain in May, but remains in recession territory,” said Bob Costello, ATA chief economist. “The 2.4% gain didn’t erase the 4.5% total drop the previous two months. Additionally, tonnage continues to contract from year-earlier levels as retail sales remain soft, manufacturing production continues to fall from a year ago, and housing starts contract from 2022 levels.”
Compared with May 2022, the SA index decreased 1.3%, which was the third straight year-over-year decrease, the ATA reported in a press release. In April, the index was down 3.4% from a year earlier.
The not-seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 120 in May, 10.1% above the April level (109).
In calculating the index, 100 represents 2015. ATA’s For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index is dominated by contract freight as opposed to spot market freight.
Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, ATA stated, representing 72.2% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 10.93 billion tons of freight in 2021. Motor carriers collected $875.5 billion, or 80.8% of the total revenue earned by all transport modes.
ATA calculates the tonnage index based on surveys from its membership and has been doing so since the 1970s. This is a preliminary figure and is subject to change in the final report issued around the 5th day of each month. The report includes month-to-month and year-over-year results, relevant economic comparisons, and key financial indicators.