ACT Research For-Hire Trucking Index: May’s Rebounds to Neutral Territory Are Marked Improvement from April’s “Worst Readings” In History

The latest release of ACT’s For-Hire Trucking Index, with May data, showed significant improvement in all five diffusion index measures tracked. May’s Volume Index rose from 19.3 in April to 50.2, with capacity also at the neutral 50 mark, and pricing and productivity both in the mid-40 range.

The ACT For-Hire Trucking Index is a monthly survey of for-hire trucking service providers. ACT Research converts responses into diffusion indexes, where the neutral or flat level is 50. Please contact us at trucks@actresearch.net if you are a for-hire executive interested in participating. In return, participants receive a detailed monthly analysis of the survey data, including Volumes, Freight Rates, Capacity, Productivity and Purchasing Intentions, plus a complimentary copy of our Transportation Digest report.

Tim Denoyer, ACT Research’s Vice President and Senior Analyst commented, “After the worst reading in survey history in April, the Volume Index increased 30.9 points in the largest month-over-month increase in survey history in May.” He added, “While we’d characterize this as neutral territory, and it may be supported by inventory rebuilding following the draw-down in March and April, it is nonetheless a much more stable volume environment.”

Regarding the uptick in freight rates, Denoyer said, “The record 21.2 point recovery in May, also the largest month-over-month increase in survey history, to 43.0 means that despite effectively recovering all the ground lost in April, the Pricing Index remains in contraction territory. And while still tentative, the trends of a strong rebound in freight volumes as a capacity tightening cycle has begun shows a bottoming process is well under way.”

When asked about the overall picture, Denoyer explained, “It may be difficult to discern from the chart, but the supply-demand equation rebalanced in May, returning to 50.2, from 26.9 in April, as recovering demand overwhelmed the more modest uptick in supply, and shrinking Class 8 retail sales suggest equipment capacity will continue to tighten, but with sidelined drivers likely coming back, and lenders extending loans, it may be a while before the market really tightens. In short, given the magnitude of the economic shock from the pandemic, the road back might be a long one.”

The ACT Freight Forecast provides forecasts for the direction of truck volumes and contract rates quarterly through 2020 with three years of annual forecasts for the truckload, less-than-truckload and intermodal segments of the transportation industry. For the truckload spot market, the report provides forecasts for the next twelve months. In 2019, the average accuracy of the report’s truckload spot rate forecasts was 98%. The ACT Research Freight Forecast uses equipment capacity modeling and the firm’s economics expertise to provide unprecedented visibility for the future of freight rates, helping businesses in transportation and logistics management plan for the future with confidence.

ACT Research is recognized as the leading publisher of commercial vehicle truck, trailer, and bus industry data, market analysis and forecasts for the North America and China markets. ACT’s analytical services are used by all major North American truck and trailer manufacturers and their suppliers, as well as banking and investment companies. ACT Research is a contributor to the Blue Chip Economic Indicators and a member of the Wall Street Journal Economic Forecast Panel. ACT Research executives have received peer recognition, including election to the Board of Directors of the National Association for Business Economics, appointment as Consulting Economist to the National Private Truck Council, and the Lawrence R. Klein Award for Blue Chip Economic Indicators’ Most Accurate Economic Forecast over a four-year period. ACT Research senior staff members have earned accolades including Chicago Federal Reserve Automotive Outlook Symposium Best Overall Forecast, Wall Street Journal Top Economic Outlook, and USA Today Top 10 Economic Forecasters. More information can be found at www.actresearch.net.

ACT’s 63rd seminar is scheduled for Aug. 11-13, 2020. Focused on the road to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the event will feature dealer, alternative power, and economic panels, as well as discussions on near-term demand of North American commercial vehicle markets and the pending impact of alternative power on the market in the near future. Both in-person and livestream options are available for those who wish to participate. Click here for seminar information.