The latest release of ACT’s For-Hire Trucking Index shows continued improvement in freight volumes, pricing, and driver availability. The Volume Index fell 4.9 points in September to 49.5 seasonally adjusted (SA), from 54.4 in August. ACT reports this month’s reading still shows a gradually improving volume trend.
“Freight demand fundamentals are starting to improve after nearly two years of substitution, destocking, and inflation. Rising interest rates, declining savings, and private fleet growth are ongoing headwinds to for-hire volumes,” said Tim Denoyer, vice president and senior analyst at ACT Research. “However, with improving goods consumption trends, the end of destocking, and a resilient industrial sector, we expect the gradually improving trend to continue.”
The Pricing Index jumped what ACT terms as “meaningfully” in September, up 9.2 points to 48.5 (SA), as rates continue to stabilize.
Denoyer explained the pricing environment is showing signs of starting to firm, but declines should persist in the near term as capacity additions and an elevated focus on labor retention persist. Improvements in volumes and slowly decreasing for-hire capacity are positive signs for pricing. Spot rates have been steady for four months as the rebalancing rolls along, he added.
Driver Availability Index
The Driver Availability Index hit an all-time high in September with a reading of 62.
Fleets continue to see a large influx of drivers, unprecedented in the survey’s history, according to ACT.
ACT said the survey sample encompasses mainly medium and large for-hire fleets, and it’s clear many of these drivers are coming from the challenged owner-operator market. The report noted that with still recent scars from pandemic driver shortages, employers across the industry are focused on labor retention—a similar theme across much of the economy.