Trucking research firm FTR has reported that its Trucking Conditions Index for September fell to the lowest level in a year, with a reading of 4.58. FTR said this marks the first time the TCI measure has fallen to single digits since December 2017, and is “a reflection of some stabilization in freight rates and demand.”
FTR added that "holiday shipping should keep volumes, capacity, and rates healthy,” causing the TCI to rise through the end of 2018. However, the index is forecast to begin “a gradual softening through most of 2019.”
“September is a near-term outlier that mostly reflects an unusually rapid stabilization of the spot market due to capacity gains, ongoing completion of bid cycles, and continued adjustment to the electronic logging device environment,” said Avery Vise, FTR’s vice president of trucking. “A strong economy and labor market should make for a strong fourth quarter heading into a promising 2019, but it’s likely that trucking conditions have peaked in the current cycle.”
The Trucking Conditions Index tracks the changes representing five major conditions in the U.S. truck market: freight volumes, freight rates, fleet capacity, fuel price, and financing. The individual metrics are combined into a single index that tracks the market conditions that influence fleet behavior. A positive score represents good, optimistic conditions. Conversely, a negative score represents bad, pessimistic conditions. “A reading well below zero on the index warns you of a problem, while readings high above zero spell opportunity,” FTR noted. “Readings near zero are consistent with a neutral operating environment, and double-digit readings (both up or down) are warning signs for significant operating changes.”
Details of the September TCI are included in the November issue of FTR’s Trucking Update. The monthly Trucking Update is part of FTR’s Freight Focus series and reports data that directly impacts the activity and profitability of truck fleets.