FTR's Trucking Conditions Index for June continued its downward trend, falling a half point from May to a reading of 4.5, weaker than initial expectations, according to the transportation forecasting firm.

The current economy continues to increase modestly, supporting 3% tonnage growth, note FTR's transportation analysts. However, this is not enough to sustain a stronger pricing position for carriers during the summer shipping season.

The Trucking Conditions Index is a compilation of factors affecting trucking companies. Any reading above zero indicates a positive environment for truckers with readings above 10 a sign that volumes, prices and margin are in a solidly favorable range for trucking companies.

"We expect the index to further weaken slightly during the summer months but to remain in positive territory," says Jonathan Starks, director of transportation analysis for FTR. "Improvement will resume as we head into the Fall peak as traffic builds and the delayed introduction of new federal regulations begin to restrict capacity. This trend will continue into 2013, culminating with the introduction of new Hours of Service rules by the FMCSA in July of next year.

"Given our expectations of a rising driver shortage, combined with a tailwind versus year-ago fuel prices and continued modest freight growth, the index should steadily increase into 2013."

The Trucking Update, published monthly, is part of FTR's Freight Focus Series and reports data that directly impacts the activity and profitability of truck fleets.