New data shows the effects of Covid-19 on levels of truck activity across USA


The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) has just released new data that quantifies the continued impacts of Covid-19 business disruptions on the trucking industry, with significant highs and lows and some areas now showing signs of returning to normal.  

ATRI’s latest analysis looked at truck activity across six states from 9 February 2020 through the most recent week ending 18 April, by converting its real-time truck GPS dataset into a truck activity index.

“The GPS data we use is a valuable tool into what is going on in the economy and the trucking industry right now,” said ATRI President and COO Rebecca Brewster. “We knew from talking to drivers and carrier executives that there were significant impacts on operations as a result of Covid-19, but now, by analysing this data we are able to put numbers and data to feelings and anecdotes.”

From early February into March, the data shows a spike in initial truck activity in the analysed states – documenting the response to high consumer demand for items such as non-perishable food and paper products, as well as the much-needed emergency medical supplies.

The analysis further documents the impacts of the stay-at-home orders that shut down major segments of the economy, with a resulting decline in April trucking operations.

Of the six states analysed, California had the earliest stay-at-home order issued on 19 March. California also experienced the earliest upward spike in truck activity, occurring during the week of March 1. However, truck activity in California is now down 8.3% from early February.

In Florida, Illinois and New York, truck activity spiked the week of 8 March, but is now down on average by over 10% from 9 February. In Pennsylvania and Washington, truck activity spiked during the week of 15 March, but is now down by an average of nearly 9% from 9 February.

There are initial signs of a return to normal, however. In New York, one of the earliest states to experience high numbers of cases, truck activity started a positive uptick during the week of 12 April.

“In these unprecedented times, we need to rely on science and facts, not anecdotes and speculation. This ATRI research is able to tell us in near-real-time what the pandemic is really doing to the trucking industry,” said American Trucking Associations chief economist Bob Costello.

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).