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ATA reports seasonally-adjusted tonnage is down 2.3 percent in May

This decline continues a trend of uneven freight transportation volumes amid various economic indicators showing signs that the economic recovery has lost its footing in recent weeks especially
By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
June 27, 2011

Following a revised 0.6 percent decline for its advance seasonally-adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage in April, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) reported today that the same index dropped 2.3 percent in May.

This decline continues a trend of uneven freight transportation volumes amid various economic indicators showing signs that the economic recovery has lost its footing in recent weeks especially.

Along with May’s 2.3 percent and April’s 0.6 percent SA declines, the SA was up 1.9 percent in March, down 2.7 percent in February, and up 3.8 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively, in January and December.

The ATA’s not seasonally-adjusted (NSA) index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by fleets before any seasonal adjustment, hit 115.9 in May, topping April by 2 percentage points. Both months were down compared to March’s 123.3, and on an annual basis, the SA was down 7.6 percent from May 2010.

Some industry analysts maintain that the not seasonally-adjusted index is more useful, because it is comprised of what truckers haul. 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.

“Truck tonnage over the last four months shows that the economy definitely hit a soft patch this spring,” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said in a statement. “With our index falling in three of the last four months totaling 3.7 percent, it is clear why there is some renewed anxiety over the economic recovery. With oil prices falling and some of the Japan-related auto supply problems ending, I believe this was a soft patch and not a slide back into recession, and we should see better, but not great, economic activity in the months ahead.”

At last week’s eyefortransport 3PL Summit in Atlanta, similar sentiment made by shippers and carriers was closely in line with Costello’s, with many attendees telling LM that while things are decent, a good amount of the momentum occurring in the market earlier in the year has definitely lessened.

Both shippers and carriers noted that the second half of the year, coupled with how Peak Season shapes up, will go a long way in determining how things shake out in the trucking market.

Robert W. Baird and Co. analyst Jon Langenfeld wrote in a research note that the domestic demand environment remains consistent with a slow-growth economy, adding that industry contacts indicate a seasonal pickup in freight demand into June.

Langenfeld added that the supply/demand balance continues to favor carriers and support rate growth, though the likelihood for pricing to exceed expectations remain muted.

About the Author

Jeff Berman headshot
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. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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