The modest 0.2 point drop to start 2012 reflects a slow acceleration of freight growth that will continue to drive the index gradually lower over the remainder of the year.
The SCI sums up all market influences that affect shippers; a reading above zero suggests a favorable shipping environment, while a reading below zero is unfavorable (but generally means a better environment for trucking companies to negotiate higher rates.)
FTR's March Shippers Update, published March 8, reports that truck utilization will remain relatively strong until new hours of service regulations are implemented in 2013, at which time capacity is expected to tighten significantly if the current rate of freight growth continues.
"Although our forecast for the economy remains conservative, we anticipate that freight growth will exceed the growth rate in GDP," says Larry Gross, senior consultant for FTR. "This will continue to keep transport capacity tight throughout the forecast period, resulting in ongoing upward rate pressure."