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US trucking heats up after a wintery first quarter in deep freeze

FEWER US first quarter truck volumes was more the result of winter storms, than a lack of demand, reports IHS Media

03 May 2021 - 19:00
FEWER US first quarter truck volumes was more the result of winter storms, than a lack of demand, reports IHS Media.

February storms and weeks of freezing weather in the southern and central United States had a big impact on supply chains, according to truckers and economic analysts alike.



Miles driven dropped 7.3 per cent in the first quarter year on year, thanks to a combination of frigid weather that caused business shutdowns across Texas and neighbouring South Central states, said Knight-Swift Transportation Holdings,



A lack of available drivers also played into the mix. The US Bank Shipment Index, which measures freight volumes, declined 8.3 per cent in the first quarter after rising a combined 11.3 per cent in the third and fourth quarters of 2020. US Bank blamed severe weather and supply chain shortages.



JB Hunt Transport Services said railway service has yet to return to normal, estimating the storms cost it US$17 million and 25,000 intermodal loads. Still, JB Hunt increased intermodal revenue two per cent in the first quarter, and total revenue 15 per cent to $2.62 billion.



The Surface Transportation Index (STI) produced by Michigan State University fell 7.8 per cent in February from January, 5 per cent more than the typical 2.8 per cent drop between those months, said Jason Miller, associate professor of logistics at the university's Eli Broad College of Business.



The STI measures a combination of truck ton-miles and total rail carloads and intermodal moves to create a composite overview of overall surface transportation activity.



'February saw a five per cent shock to the entire US surface freight transportation system,' said Mr Miller, who produces the index with associate professor of supply chain management Yemisi Bolumole. 'This may be the strongest evidence yet of just how much weather can impact freight activity,' he said.


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