Nobody expected April to be a good month for freight volumes, and it wasn’t. Almost all the economic indicators, from industrial production to retail sales, housing starts to unemployment claims, were headed in the wrong direction in April. The amount of tonnage hauled dropped significantly, along with spot freight rates.
In Arlington, Virginia, American Trucking Associations (ATA) reported a 12.2% drop in its seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index. The index came in at 119.5 in March, meaning that March freight levels were 19.5% higher than the 2015 average of 100 that forms the base of the index.
In April, that tonnage index fell to 104.9. That’s 11.3% lower than April of 2019.
“April’s monthly decline was the largest in 26 years, said Bob Costello, ATA chief economist. “Considering that April factory output and retail sales plummeted, the large drop in truck freight is not surprising.”
Costello pointed out that fleets hauling groceries and those hauling for online retailers generally did better than average, while others were hit harder.
“Some fleets witnessed very large declines in freight last month,” he said.
The ATA index is comprised of data reported by ATA member carriers and generally reflects contract freight hauled by medium to large carriers.
The Cass Freight Index, which encompasses freight data from rail, ship, pipeline and other shipping modes as well as trucking, fell 15.1% in April from March tonnage, and 22.7% from April 2019.
The Cass Trucking Index wasn’t quite as bad, declining 7.0% compared to April 2019. The Cass report wasn’t bullish on