The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index jumped 2.3% in May 2013 after falling 0.2% in April. The 0.2% drop in April was unchanged from what ATA reported May 21, 2013.
In May, the SA index equaled 126.0 (2000=100) versus 123.2 in April. May 2013 is the highest level on record, surpassing the previous high in December 2011 (124.3). Compared with May 2012, the SA index surged 6.7%, which is the largest year-over-year gain since December 2011. Year-to-date, versus the same period in 2012, the tonnage index is up 4.5%.
The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 132.7 in May 2013, which was 5.4% above the previous month (125.9).
“After bouncing around in a fairly tight band during the previous three months, tonnage skyrocketed in May,” said Bob Costello, ATA chief economist. Some of the increase is attributable to factory output rising in May for the first time since February (+0.2%) and retail sales performing stronger than expected in May (+0.6%).
Costello said, “The 6.8% surge in new housing starts during May obviously pushed tonnage up as home construction generates a significant amount of truck tonnage.”
“While we heard good reports regarding freight levels during May, I have to admit I am a little surprised at the large gain in tonnage,” he said. Tonnage continues to outpace the number of loads hauled as heavy freight (eg, housing construction materials and sand and water for hydraulic fracturing) is outperforming box trailer (ie, dry van) freight, Costello said.
Trucking serves as a barometer of the US economy, representing 67% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 9.2 billion tons of freight in 2011. Motor carriers collected $603.9 billion, or 80.9% of total revenue earned by all transport modes.