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Trucking Industry Growth Significantly Declines In April 2020 Due to Coronavirus Impact

posted on 22 May 2020

Written by Steven Hansen

Headline data for the American Trucking Association (ATA) and the CASS Freight Index show that truck volumes declined and somewhat agree on year-over-year decline.

Analyst Opinion of Truck Transport

The CASS index is inclusive of rail, truck, and air shipments. The ATA truck index is inclusive of only trucking industry member movements (ATA’s tonnage data is dominated by contract freight).

I put a heavier weight on the CASS index year-over-year which is consistent with rail and ocean freight. It is not logical that truck freight goes up when industrial production and ocean freight decline – not to mention the continuing effects of the trade war and the coronavirus shutdown.

Econintersect tries to validate truck data across data sources. It appears this month that the truck employment rate of growth continues to slow. Please note using BLS employment data in real-time is risky, as their data is normally backward adjusted (sometimes significantly). Additionally, Econintersect believes that the BLS is not capturing all truck employment.

ATA Trucking

ATA’s March truck tonnage contracted 12.2 % and is down 11.3 % year-over-year.

Said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello:

April’s monthly decline was the largest in 26 years when there was a labor strike in April 1994. Considering that April factory output and retail sales plummeted, the large drop in truck freight is not surprising. However, not all fleets saw large declines in April. Those hauling food for grocery stores and those involved in the on-line retail supply chain outperformed most other fleets. Some fleets witnessed very large declines in freight last month.

These historic declines show just how much trucking was impacted by our national response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 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

ATA Truck tonnage this month

z truck.png

source: ATA


The following was reported by CASS:

Freight volumes fell to 2009 levels in April, although for much different reasons than a decade ago. Compared to last year, volumes were down 22.7%. We believe the market has hit bottom and May will be better. With demand in negative territory, so is the cost of shipping. Truckload linehaul rates are down 7% from a year ago (although they’ve been essentially flat all year), and the total cost of intermodal shipping is down 7.1%.

z truck2.png

z truck1.PNG


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