July Sees Increase In Intermodal Freight As Truck Tonnage Dips

The American Trucking Association recently released their For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index for July, which showed that freight volumes have been hit hard by COVID-19, with numbers still below 2019’s. However, the damage wasn’t spread evenly, as intermodal volumes went up a bit between June and July, while truck tonnage dipped a bit during the same time.

According to the ATA’s data, the index dropped by 5.1% from June-July 2020, while it dropped by 8.3% from July 2019 to July 2020.

ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello offered some explanations, noting that for-hire contract tonnage dropped due to a lot of fleets not having the capabilities to properly take advantage of the sudden upsurge in retail freight volumes following the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies like Titan Transline have been adjusting, with some overflow resulting from it all, which then went to the spot market, resulting in the changes in the numbers.

DAT Solutions also published some data, showing that dry van sport rates went up by 12.2% between June and July, with rates going up by 10.3% in July 2020 from July 2019.

Costello notes that the rest of the ATA’s data shows that for-hire truckload fleets have dipped in operations by 3% compared to 2019, which means that additional freight might be difficult to handle. On top of that, he notes, that manufacturing output and international trade freight has been recovering a bit slower than retail volumes, meaning that companies like Titan Transline are dealing with demand that outpaces their recovery.

The ATA’s For-Hire Truck Tonnage dropped by 3.2% between January-July 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. This seemingly small number is notable as the trucking industry handles 72.5% of all the tonnage that domestic freight transportation handles, which includes manufactured and retail goods. For 2019, trucks hauled a total of 11.84bn tons of freight.

On the flipside, intermodal freight has been hit less by COVID, with rates even being set for the rest of 2020. The Intermodal Association of North America notes that total intermodal volumes dropped by 11.9% in Q2 2020 compared to Q2 2019.

IANA CEO and President Joni Casey says that the Q2 2020 data really showed how industries were hit by COVID-19, with international and domestic volumes being hit. However, they forecast that the Q2 numbers will be the floor going forward, meaning that they’re foreseeing steady increase from then on.