Apr21 Tonnage Prn

Truck Tonnage Index down in April

May 24, 2021
Freight outlook ‘solid’ going forward as activity nears pre-pandemic levels, but driver shortage still a challenge, ATA says

American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index decreased 0.3% in April after increasing 2.3% in March.

In April, the index equaled 114.7 (2015=100) compared with 115.1 in March.

“After a revised increase in March of 2.3%, the April index declined just slightly,” said Bob Costello ATA’s chief economist. “The outlook is solid for tonnage going forward as the country approaches pre-pandemic levels of activity, with strong economic growth in key areas for trucking, including retail, home construction and even manufacturing.

“Additionally, the index increased on a year-over-year basis for the first time since March 2020. Part of the reason for the gain was due to an easy comparison with when the index fell significantly in April 2020. But I'm expecting increases, albeit smaller than April’s, on a year-over-year basis going forward. Trucking’s biggest challenges are not on the demand side, but on the supply side, including difficulty finding qualified drivers.”

March’s reading was revised up to +2.3% from ATA’s April 20 release.

Compared with April 2020, the SA index jumped 6.9%, which was preceded by a 2.4% year-over-year decline in March, ATA said.

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 114.3 in April, 4.2% below the March level (119.3). In calculating the index, 100 represents 2015. ATA’s For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index is dominated by contract freight as opposed to spot market freight.

Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing 72.5% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 11.84 billion tons of freight in 2019. Motor carriers collected $791.7 billion, or 80.4% of total revenue earned by all transport modes. 

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