Despite April freight tonnage decline, trucking demand exceeds capacity

For-hire US motor carriers hauled less freight in April, according to the American Trucking Associations (ATA), but despite this brief lull, trucking demand is expected to continue to exceed supply in the near term. The organization’s for-hire truck tonnage index fell 4.2 percent from March to April on a non-seasonally adjusted basis. One cause could be the winter storms that hit the US in the first quarter that led to a backlog of freight. The drop could also be an indication that shippers are getting more selective about what cargoes they move by truck versus intermodal rail, according to Satish Jindel, president of transportation consultancy SJ Consulting. “People want to ship more, but capacity is very tight,” he told “Shippers are getting a little more selective in what is needed right away.” However, the April ATA index was up 6.9 percent over the same time last year, and the index should see further year-over-year gains as pandemic-related lockdowns continue to ease and retailers restock inventories, according to ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “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,” Costello said in a statement. “Trucking’s biggest challenges are not on the demand side, but on the supply side, including difficulty finding qualified drivers.”

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