Truck Tonnage  Plunged 12.2% in April

Truck Tonnage Plunged 12.2% in April

May 27, 2020
This was the largest decline in 26 years.

Truck tonnage hit a record in April, however, it wasn't a good record.  

“April’s monthly decline was the largest in 26 years when there was a labor strike in April 1994,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello.

American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index contracted 12.2% in April after increasing 0.4% in March. In April, the index equaled 104.9 (2015=100) compared with 119.5 in March.

“Considering that April factory output and retail sales plummeted, the large drop in truck freight is not surprising," said Costello in a statement. " However, not all fleets saw large declines in April. Those hauling food for grocery stores and those involved in the online retail supply chain outperformed most other fleets. Some fleets witnessed very large declines in freight last month.”  

March’s gain was revised down to 0.4% from the 1.2% increase the group reported on April 21..

“These historic declines show just how much trucking was impacted by our national response to the COVID-19 pandemic” Costello said. “As the nation starts taking small steps toward reopening, we should see some modest improvements in the freight market, but the size of April’s decline gives us an idea of how long the road back may be.”

Compared with April 2019, the SA index contracted 11.3%, the largest year-over-year decline since early 2009. This drop was preceded by a 3.5% year-over-year gain in March. Year-to-date, compared with the same period in 2019, tonnage is down 1.3%.

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 104.6 in April, 12.8% below the March level (120). In calculating the index, 100 represents 2015. 

Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing 71.4% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 11.49 billion tons of freight in 2018. Motor carriers collected $796.7 billion, or 80.3% of total revenue earned by all transport modes. 

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