US truck tonnage sputters as economy hits ‘soft patch’

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ARLINGTON, Va. — US truck tonnage dropped 2.3% in May after a revised decline of 0.6% in April, according to the latest data from the American Trucking Associations.

Tonnage is still up 2.7% year-over-year, however that is the smallest year-over-year gain reported since February 2010. In April, the ATA For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index was 4.8% better than April 2010.

ATA chief economist Bob Costello said the economy is to blame.

“Truck tonnage over the last four months shows that the economy definitely hit a soft patch this spring,” he said. “With our index falling in three of the last four months totaling 3.7%, it is clear why there is some renewed anxiety over the economic recovery.” 

However, Costello added that he is cautiously optimistic that freight volumes will improve in the second half of the year along with economic activity. 

“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,” he said.

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