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ATRI: New data show COVID-19 impacts on trucking industry

April 28, 2020
Analysis of activity in six states shows early spikes in demand followed by declining operations in April

The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) recently released new data quantifying the continued impacts of COVID-19 business disruptions on the trucking industry. 

ATRI’s latest analysis looked at truck activity across six states from Feb 9 through the most recent week ending April 18, by converting its real-time truck GPS dataset into a truck activity index. 

“The GPS data we use is a valuable tool into what is going on in the economy and the trucking industry right now,” said Rebecca Brewster, ATRI president and chief operating officer. “We knew from talking to drivers and carrier executives that there were significant impacts on operations as a result of COVID-19, but now, by analyzing this data we are able to put numbers and data to feelings and anecdotes.”

From early February into March, the data shows a spike in initial truck activity in the analyzed states, documenting the response to high consumer demand for items such as non-perishable food and paper products, as well as the much-needed emergency medical supplies. 

The analysis further documents the impacts of the stay-at-home orders that shut down major segments of the economy, with a resulting decline in April trucking operations. 

  • Of the six states analyzed, California had the earliest stay-at-home order issued on March 19.  California also experienced the earliest upward spike in truck activity, occurring during the week of March 1. However, truck activity in California is now down 8.3% from early February.
  • In Florida, Illinois and New York, truck activity spiked the week of March 8 but now is down by more than 10% on average from Feb 9.
  • In Pennsylvania and Washington, truck activity spiked during the week of March 15, but now is down by an average of nearly 9% from Feb 9.

There are initial signs of a return to normal, however, ATRI said. In New York, one of the earliest states to experience high numbers of cases, truck activity started a positive uptick during the week of April 12. 

“In these unprecedented times, we need to rely on science and facts, not anecdotes and speculation,” said Bob Costello, chief economist for the American Trucking Associations. “This ATRI research is able to tell us in near-real-time what the pandemic is really doing to the trucking industry.”

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