XPO reported Tuesday a continuation of muted trends in its less-than-truckload segment during May. Tonnage was down 2.3% year over year (y/y) in the month, following a similar previously disclosed decline in April.

The tonnage decline in May was the combination of a 1.8% y/y increase in shipments and a 4% decline in weight per shipment. The May trends were slightly worse than what the carrier saw in April and largely an extension of its first-quarter results.

On its first-quarter conference call in early May, XPO’s (NYSE: XPO) management team said the company was hauling more local freight, which typically is associated with lower shipment weights. Weight per shipment was off 4% y/y in May, following a roughly 5% decline in April.

No commentary or revenue-based metrics were provided in the Tuesday update.

Management from the company previously guided to a small increase in revenue per hundredweight in the second quarter. The metric was 2.4% higher y/y in the first quarter, up 1.4% excluding fuel surcharges. Management’s guidance also called for only half of the normal 400 basis points of sequential operating ratio improvement the company sees from the first to second quarter each year. Lower shipment weights are part of the reason for the softer OR guide.

Table: Company reports

The worst of the volume degradation may have passed for some carriers. Even if the rates of decline hold through June, which is normally a seasonally strong month for freight, XPO’s tonnage in the second quarter would be 3% higher than in the first quarter. By comparison, the carrier normally sees a 5% sequential tonnage increase in the second quarter.

Carrier Saia (NASDAQ: SAIA) also reported modest tonnage declines through the first two months of the second quarter. Extrapolating its change rates through the rest of the second quarter, the carrier would likely see a high-single-digit percentage increase in tonnage from the first quarter. 

The updates from XPO and Saia are largely in line with the consensus outlook formed in recent months that the LTL industry has likely moved past the worst part of the downturn. However, a Monday evening update from Old Dominion (NASDAQ: ODFL) showed that carrier continues to shed market share as it holds the line of pricing.

Old Dominion reported mid-teens volume declines quarter to date even as comparisons to the prior year eased. Also, when applying its current change rate for the entire quarter, the carrier would actually see a modest step down in tonnage from the first quarter, which is usually the weakest demand quarter each year.

Management from Old Dominion said on its first-quarter call in late April that it would continue to preserve yields and that it expects freight that recently left its network to return in short order. It noted that some customers made the switch to lower-cost carriers to meet near-term transportation budget constraints.

Additionally, the company usually only underperforms market share trends for three to five consecutive quarters. It’s already pushing the outer band of that range currently.

One headwind facing the group is a slowing manufacturing sector.

Data from the Institute for Supply Management showed the Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index was in contraction territory for a seventh straight month in May. A 46.9 reading was just 0.2 percentage points lower than the April reading but below the neutral threshold of 50. Components like new orders (42.6) and order backlogs (37.5) were notable detractors in the month.

The data set measures manufacturing activity in the U.S. economy. Industrial-related freight accounts for roughly two-thirds of revenue for some LTL carriers.

More FreightWaves articles by Todd Maiden

Transportation prices fall at fastest-ever pace in May

Old Dominion sees tonnage plummet again in May

Saia’s Q2 update suggests worst of downturn in rearview

Louisville, Green Bay markets highly resisted by carriers

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