The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index only decreased 1% in May to 106.1 after falling 10.3% in April to 107.2.
“While tonnage fell in May, even though other economic indicators like retail sales and housing starts rose, I’m not overly concerned,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “First, while down over 10% sequentially in April, truck tonnage did not fall as much as other economic indicators that month. This means that any rebound is tougher since tonnage didn’t fall substantially to begin with. Second, there are indications that freight continues to improve as more and more states and localities lift lockdown restrictions.”
April’s drop was revised up to -10.3% from the 12.2% decline reported by ATA in May. Compared to May 2019, the index is down 9.6%, the largest year-over-year decline since the Great Recession in 2009. But, the index has not dropped to the same levels as April 2009, when the index was off 14% from the previous year.
“While the overall economy will likely take more than a year to recover, assuming the pandemic doesn’t spike again, the trucking industry could recover back to pre-COVID levels before many other industries because it hasn’t fallen as much,” Costello said. “As retail sales improve and housing starts recover, that will help trucking. The risk for trucking is that the virus surges again and places start to shut back down again.”