The Pulse of Commerce Index, a measure that uses sale of diesel as a proxy for freight activity, dropped by 0.9% in May. The PCI is a good “heads up” for what we might expect the ATA’s Truck Tonnage Index, as well as the Fed’s Industrial Production figures, to show when they are released in about two weeks.

As stated in the report, economic growth from 2009 to mid-2010 was based mainly on inventory restocking. The trucking economy benefited from this growth, as demand for new and used trucks made clear. Interestingly, the freight environment hasn’t let up much since the economy shifted into a slower growth mode. Orders for new trucks remain at elevated levels, and selling prices for used trucks are still at historic highs.

We will get a clearer picture of the industrial sector when the official figures are released next week, but I would bet on continued decrease in manufacturing of autos and durable goods (the former due to continued parts shortages from the Japan disaster, and the latter due to reduced consumer spending), with more healthy production in other sectors. So, like last month, a drop in one sector could largely cancel out an increase in another, resulting in another minor decrease in tonnage. Stay tuned.