April 2021 Trucking Marginally Declined

Headline data for the CASS Freight Index show that truck volumes show volumes slowed month-over-month - but the year-over-year growth is now in double digits. In the opposite corner, the American Trucking Association (ATA) index also declined but is finally in expansion now year-over-year.

Analyst Opinion of Truck Transport

The CASS index is inclusive of rail, truck, and air shipments. The ATA truck index is inclusive of only trucking industry member movements (ATA's tonnage data is dominated by contract freight).

I put a heavier weight on the CASS index year-over-year which is more consistent with rail and ocean freight.

Econintersect tries to validate truck data across data sources. It appears this month that the truck employment rate of growth continues to improve. Please note using BLS employment data in real-time is risky, as their data is normally backward adjusted (sometimes significantly). Additionally, Econintersect believes that the BLS is not capturing all truck employment.

ATA Trucking

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.

Said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello:

After a revised increase in March of 2.3%, the April index declined just slightly. 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.

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