Falling diesel prices, greater freight volume and strong freight rates in December 2021 contributed to FTR’s Trucking Conditions Index rising to nearly 14.5, the highest since May 2021.
FTR officials expect conditions to remain positive for carriers through 2022 with gradual easing, but swings in fuel prices could maintain volatility.
“Government data concerning the labor market is starting to reinforce our analysis that overall driver capacity is not as tight as would be implied by stubbornly high freight rates,” Avery Vise, FTR’s vice president of trucking, said in a press release. “We still believe that the distribution of drivers in the market rather than the total number of drivers is the key issue. The market could remain stressed until capacity stops shifting from larger carriers to smaller ones. Potential catalysts for reversing this shift include continued sharp increases in fuel costs, a falloff in freight demand, or continued incremental gains in the driver supply among larger carriers, but none of those developments is a sure bet.”
The TCI tracks the changes representing five major conditions in the U.S. truck market. These conditions are: freight volumes, freight rates, fleet capacity, fuel price, and financing. The individual metrics are combined into a single index indicating the industry’s overall health. A positive score represents good, optimistic conditions. Conversely, a negative score represents bad, pessimistic conditions. Readings near zero are consistent with a neutral operating environment, and double-digit readings in either direction suggest significant operating changes are likely.