The national truck freight market softened in the first quarter of 2021 – the result of severe winter weather and supply-chain shortages.
The Q1 2021 U.S. Bank Freight Payment Index, a quarterly analysis of national shipments and spend, showed that shipments in Q1 2021 contracted 8.3% (vs. a gain of 5.3% in Q4 2020) and spending was down 4.7% (vs. an increase of nearly 20% in Q4 2020).
Freight volume normally slows during the first quarter of the year, but this quarter the drop was impacted by several forces, including severe weather in February across much of the country and a disruption in the supply of microchips for auto and truck manufacturers.
The U.S. Bank National Shipment Index shrank 8.3% this quarter after increasing a combined 11.3% in the third and fourth quarters of 2020. Severe weather impacted construction, retail, factory output and energy production, slowing supply chains and making it difficult for people to work.
The U.S. Bank National Spend Index contracted 4.7% this quarter after jumping nearly 20% in Q4 2020 and 14.6% in Q3 2020.
Despite a drop in spending this quarter, overall spend remains high due to several factors:
All regions posted declines in the National Shipment Index, both quarter-to-quarter and year-over-year with the exception of the West. In terms of spending, all regions posted declines from the fourth quarter but gains from a year earlier.
“The freight industry hit an economic recovery ‘speed bump’ during the first quarter,” said Bobby Holland, U.S. Bank vice president and director of Freight Data Solutions. “Winter storms, supply-chain disruptions and a continued driver shortage all contributed to tight capacity. However, headed into the spring and summer, with many Americans vaccinated, government stimulus and increased economic reopening, we anticipate increased spending and increased factory output – leading to rising freight volumes.”
Bob Costello, senior vice president and chief economist for the American Trucking Associations, said, “A lot of the issues in Q1 were weather-related and therefore temporary. We’re still predicting growth in the coming year.”
To see the full report including in-depth regional data, visit the U.S. Bank Freight Payment Index website.
For more than 20 years, organizations have turned to U.S. Bank Freight Payment for the service, reliability and security that only a bank can provide. The U.S. Bank Freight Payment Index measures quantitative changes in freight shipments and spend activity based on data from transactions processed through U.S. Bank Freight Payment. The business processed $31.4 billion in 2020 for some of the world’s largest corporations and government agencies.