An index of truck tonnage fell only slightly in May after plunging by double digits in April, slowing its decline and giving hope for a return to pre-Covid levels, according to the American Trucking Associations (ATA).
The Arlington, Virginia-based ATA said that its advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index contracted 1% in May after falling 10.3% in April. In May, the index equaled 106.1 compared with 107.2 in April, on a scale where 2015 marks the baseline of 100.
“While tonnage fell in May, even though other economic indicators like retail sales and housing starts rose, I’m not overly concerned,” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said in a release. “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.”
Compared with May 2019, the SA index contracted 9.6%, the largest year-over-year decline since 2009 during the depths of the Great Recession. Year-to-date, compared with the same period in 2019, tonnage is down 2.6%.
“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.”
#TONNAGE: “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." - @ATAEconBob— American Trucking (@TRUCKINGdotORG) June 23, 2020