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March Truck Tonnage Falls 9.5% Year-Over-Year

Posted - April 26, 2021

Truck tonnage in March declined on an annual and month-to-month basis, with year-ago comparisons that recall the first month that the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the nation, noted American Trucking Associations Chief Economist Bob Costello in the federation’s monthly For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index release.

“A year ago in March, we were delivering all that toilet paper and there was a surge of activity,” Costello said. “There was panic buying and people were buying meat and toilet paper. Last March was that transition month.”

The ATA index for March fell a seasonally adjusted 9.5% when compared with March 2020. On a month-over-month basis, the index decreased 5.1% in March after declining 2.3% in February. In March, the index equaled 106.8 compared with 112.5 in February. (The index equaled 100 in 2015.)

Costello told Transport Topics that he’s not concerned with the March declines. “Halfway through March [2020], everything got shut down and some freight just fell off the cliff, but there was other freight that just skyrocketed,” Costello said. “It was a difficult year-over-year comparison.”

Costello noted that some trucking fleets he has spoken with reported that the early days of last month were somewhat soft in terms of freight, but the second half of the month was much stronger. He also said supply chain issues — including the much-discussed shortages of microchips used in computers, trucks and cars — also drove freight numbers down.


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