Analysis of fleet telematics data reveals drop-off in vehicle activity

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Updated Apr 6, 2020
Analysis of fleet telematics data by Geotab shows a sharp decline in business activity after Mar. 15 due to COVID impact.Analysis of fleet telematics data by Geotab shows a sharp decline in business activity after Mar. 15 due to COVID impact.

Commercial activity for semi-trucks, service vehicles and other equipment has fallen precipitously as a result of the actions taken by federal and state governments to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The daily decline in vehicle activity is evident from data collected and analyzed by telematics provider Geotab. The company has thousands of fleet customers with devices in more than two million vehicles total, of which more than 500,000 are class 6-8 trucks.

Mike Branch, vice president of data and analytics for the Toronto-based company, shared recent findings with CCJ that compare commercial vehicle trip data to a baseline of Feb. 1 to Mar. 15, 2020. A trip is defined as activities that occur between ignition on and off events.

The hardest-hit regions in the United States have been New York and New Jersey. Commercial vehicle trips in these states have fallen 40% from baseline. Most areas of the country are trending at above 80% of normal business activity but continue to slide as more states enact shelter-in-place rules.

Geotab data also show that border crossings have declined over the past two weeks. In mid-March, commercial traffic began to dissipate after an initial surge, likely from businesses anticipating a pending closure of the border, Branch said.

Commercial traffic at the four busiest checkpoints between the U.S. and Canada is currently running at 70% of normal volume. Heavy-duty trucks are doing better at 84% of normal.

Wait times at the four border locations also spiked around mid-March but have since returned to normal and are trending downward, Branch said.

Traffic volumes at four of North America’s busiest seaports in Montreal, Vancouver, Tacoma and Seattle have not changed much. Vehicle activity dipped slightly overall but Canadian ports have seen a slight increase, Branch noted.

As expected, commercial vehicle traffic near airports has decreased significantly because far fewer shipments of food and other items are needed with airlines cancelling flights.

The one bright spot from March 16 to Friday, Mar. 27, is an increase in vehicle traffic to and from grocery stores. Traffic rose by as much as 15% above baseline, but traffic from freight deliveries and service vehicles have dipped the week of Mar. 30 to about 90% of normal, Branch said.

Geotab is publishing regular updates to the impact of COVID-19 on business activity at www.geotab.com