ATA reports 3.4 percent annual gain in seasonally-adjusted tonnage

Seasonally-adjusted (SA) for-hire truck tonnage in May rose 1.0 percent, and compared to a year ago, the May SA was up 3.4 percent for its second-highest annual gain of 2014.

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Truck tonnage took steady and measured steps in the right direction in May, according to data issued by the American Trucking Associations (ATA).

Seasonally-adjusted (SA) for-hire truck tonnage in May rose 1.0 percent, following a 0.9 percent gain in April. The index was at 129.7 (2000=100) compared to 124.1 in May compared to April’s 128.3 and was below the all-time high of 131.0 in November by about 1 percent. Compared to a year ago, the May SA was up 3.4 percent for its second-highest annual gain of 2014, with April’s 4.2 percent annual bump the highest, and on a year-to-date basis SA tonnage is up 2.9 percent.

The ATA’s not seasonally-adjusted (NSA) index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by fleets before any seasonal adjustment came was 133 in May, up 1.8 percent over April’s 130.7 and was 0.03 percent higher annually.

As defined by the ATA, the not seasonally-adjusted index is assembled by adding up all the monthly tonnage data reported by the survey respondents (ATA member carriers) for the latest two months. Then a monthly percent change is calculated and then applied to the index number for the first month.

“I’m pleased at the direction of freight, highlighted by May’s fourth consecutive gain in tonnage totaling 4.5 percent,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello in a statement.
“While the year-to-date improvement is running behind last year’s robust 6.3 percent increase, gains this year are more broad-based,” he said. “It isn’t just heavy freight for sectors like tank truck and flatbed from energy and housing that are improving this year. Now, generic dry van trailer freight is doing better as well, which wasn’t the case in 2013. This is a good sign for the economy.”

Costello added in an ATA video interview that he believes the economy is picking up steam, even though the U.S. GDP was only up 1.0 percent in the first quarter. But he said the second quarter GDP could come in closer to 3.5 percent and be around 3 percent over the second half of the year. That bounce could help freight volumes in the form of tonnage or more loads.

“If you look at the year overall, it won’t be as good as last year, because the first quarter was just so tough, but that is somewhat misleading as the current quarter and second half of the year are going to be very nice and that is going to help truck freight volumes,” explained Costello. 

BB&T Capital Markets Analyst Thom Albrecht wrote in a research note that freight remains fairly busy, but the month of May was more pedestrian compared to the often chaotic descriptions from mid-November through April.

“As several shippers told us, capacity feels balanced, neither tight nor loose. Carriers remain very firm on pricing during bids and/or renewals,” he stated. “We heard several times that in the days before and during Memorial weekend that capacity was orderly, with minimal service failures. Several told us they were braced for a very challenging holiday weekend and it went smoother than in several years. This suggests freight flows and assets are in sync.”

About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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