"After increasing a total of 2.6% during the three previous months, March's sequential decline was the largest monthly drop since April 2020 during the start of the pandemic," ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said.
"Falling home construction, decreasing factory output and soft retail sales all hurt contract freight tonnage — which dominates ATA's tonnage index — during the month."
Despite what Costello called the largest year-over-year drop since October 2020, the ATA's figures show contract freight remains more robust than the spot market, which continues to see prolonged weakness.
Compared with March 2022, the SA index fell 5%, the first year-over-year decrease since August 2021. During the first quarter, tonnage shipped by truck was 0.6% below the same three-month period in 2022.
The ATA calculates the tonnage index based on surveys from its membership and has been doing so since the 1970s. According to the ATA, the trucking sector carries over 72% of freight tonnage shipped in the U.S.