The American Trucking Associations’ Truck Tonnage Index saw a huge drop in for-hire freight levels in April, plummetting 12.2% after a slight 0.4% upturn in March, driven by COVID-19 shutdowns affecting factory activity and consumer buying patterns.
“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. “Considering that April factory output and retail sales plummeted, the large drop in truck freight is not surprising.”
Not all fleets saw large declines in April, according to Costello. Those hauling food for grocery stores and involved in the online retail space outperformed most other fleets.
March’s gain was revised down to a 0.4% increase, from the 1.2% increase originally reported in late April.
Compared to a year ago, the seasonally adjusted index was down 11.3%, the largest year-over-year decline in more than a decade. The decrease was preceded by a 3.5% year-over-year gain in March, with year-to-date tonnage is down 1.3% when compared with the same period in 2019.
“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.”
April’s not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, dropped 12.8% below March.