Truck tonnage saw a slight increase in May, according to the latest American Trucking Associations (ATA) survey of its members.
This index is considered quite reliable. Its base year is 2015, so a value of 117.1 shows the percent gain since 2015. On the graph below you can see the big plunge in early 2020 due to COVID, the rapid recovery, and the more recent upward trend. There’s nothing to make you believe the general upward trend over the last 6 months is broken yet.
The index is dominated by results from contract trucking. The ATA release proposes a theory about the relation with the spot freight market, which has been slowing.
If a recession arrives, we can predict a tailing off of the need for trucking. We hear that inventories are replenished at most big box stores, so demand for refilling may be down. At the supermarket we still see spot shortages, but not like over the winter. The threat to trucking volumes would be if consumers slow down their buying, forcing outlets to reduce inventories.
We hear anecdotally almost that the driver shortage is much less severe than it was over the winter. We also hear that more drivers are exiting ownership, which is affecting used truck auction prices. We don’t know if these drivers were captured in the ATA survey.
Perhaps there’s a downturn coming. Transportation is often a reliable index of the quality of the economy.
ATA Truck Tonnage Index Rose 0.5% in May | American Trucking AssociationsATA Truck Tonnage Index Rose 0.5% in May | American Trucking Associations