A measure of the health of the trucking industry has increased slightly, reflecting extremely tight capacity in the truckload sector, according to newly released report from the freight forecasting firm FTR.

Its Trucking Conditions Index in March rose more than one point to a reading of 8.69.

“There is a possibility for some relief of the tight truckload capacity over the next few months if freight growth slows as expected in the second quarter,” the group said in a release. “The stressed supply situation of today is caused, primarily, by regulatory drag on shipping capacity along with the winter disruptions”

FTR Trucking Conditions Index, Jan. 2013 through March 2014. Credit: FTR

FTR Trucking Conditions Index, Jan. 2013 through March 2014. Credit: FTR

The TCI for the remainder of 2014 is expected to remain at the same level, as trucking capacity will stay tight.

“Truckers should be feeling much better now that they have finally been able to use the ever tightening truck supply to get much needed rate gains,” said Jonathan Starks, FTR’s director of transportation analysis. “It looks like much of the supply-and-demand balance is coming back down to a more ‘normal’ level as shippers are finishing their spring freight season and the backlog of loads caused by the winter weather has largely subsided.”

Starks noted ‘normal’ remains a relative term, since the industry continues to be operating at much higher levels of utilization than in the past. “Recent data shows a strong uptick in economic activity, but it will be hard to know if we are merely playing catch-up from a bad first quarter or if there is some real sustained growth occurring.”

More details of the March TCI Index are in the May issue of FTR’s Trucking Update.