Toll Index March 2020 – sizing COVID-19

How big is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy? Here is another measurement to begin to fathom that extend of the damage.

The Toll Index for the month of March, based on fresh data from the German Bundesamt für Güterverkehr, shows a whopping 7.8% drop in inbound border crossing lorries and 10% drop for outbound ones compared to March of 2019 and controlling for number of working days.

The first and biggest drop since 2009 and the story is still developing.

Starting in July 2018 the BAG – Bundesamt für Güterverkehr introduced yet another policy change which affected how lorries pay tolls within the MAUT system as well as the data that come out of this process which are used for computing the Toll Index. The change expanded the network of roads in which toll is due by adding all bundesstraßen to it.

While in the long run this is bound to make the Toll Index more accurate in these past twelve months it made it useless for nowcasting. Moreover the BAG had difficulty producing the numbers timely for about year. After July 2019 we can report year on year changes for each month (with a missing value in 2018 for all months from July to December and a missing value in 2019 for all months from January to June.

The Toll Index was first proposed in IZA DP5522 which was published in the Journal of Forecasting. It has been widely covered in national and international media (selection):

The German statistical office, in cooperation with the Bundesamt für Güterverkehr,  has taken the MAUT data in its portfolio of data products and their efforts can be found here. The Destatis document describing the data is here and here is their publication calendar for 2019.