FTR’s Shippers Conditions Index Improves in June to Near Neutral Reading

FTR’s Shippers Conditions Index (SCI) for June, as detailed in the August issue of the Shippers Update, improved again month-over-month to a near neutral reading of -0.7. FTR expects the Shippers Index to remain fairly moderate in the near term because of slow contract pricing increases and a modest weakening of the expected regulatory environment. Monthly data also indicates a slower growing economy for the balance of 2017 with matching slower freight growth. In spite of the current neutral environment for shippers, indicators still are pointing to tightened capacity at the new year.

The SCI is a compilation of factors affecting the shippers transport environment. Any reading below zero indicates a less-than-ideal environment for shippers. Readings below -10 signal that conditions for shippers are approaching critical levels, based on available capacity and expected costs. The August issue of FTR’s Shippers Update, published August 10, details the factors affecting the June Shippers Conditions Index along with a look into the spot market using powerful new analytical tools and data available through FTR’s partnership with Truckstop.

Jonathan Starks, Chief Operating Officer at FTR, commented, “Weak contract pricing is helping to keep the SCI in relatively neutral conditions. However, spot market pricing is approaching 20% y/y increases, and contract increases are only a short time from occurring. More importantly, Hurricane Harvey’s impacts on Texas and other gulf region states is strong enough to affect nearly 10% of the trucking market. That could serve as a catalyst for further capacity constraints and stronger rates as we head into the fall shipping season. In addition, the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) scheduled for December will maintain pressure on truck capacity as we head into 2018. The recent decision from the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) to delay full penalties for ELD compliance until April 2018 does reduce some of the near-term pressure, but the overall picture remains the same – trucking capacity is tightening, and rates are moving up.”

The Shippers Conditions Index tracks the changes representing four major conditions in the U.S. full-load freight market. These conditions are: freight demand, freight rates, fleet capacity, and fuel price. The individual metrics are combined into a single index that tracks the market conditions that influence the shippers’ freight transport environment. A positive score represents good, optimistic conditions. A negative score represents bad, pessimistic conditions. The index tells you the industry’s health at a glance. In life, running a fever is an indication of a health problem. It may not tell you exactly what’s wrong, but it alerts you to look deeper. Similarly, a reading well below zero on the FTR Trucking Conditions Index warns you of a problem….and readings high above zero spell opportunity. Readings near zero are consistent with a neutral operating environment. Double digit readings (both up or down) are warning signs for significant operating changes.

For more than two decades, FTR has been the thought leader in freight transportation forecasting in North America. The company’s national award-winning forecasters collect and analyze all data likely to impact freight movement, issuing consistently reliable reports for trucking, rail, and intermodal transportation, as well as providing demand analysis for commercial vehicle and railcar. FTR’s forecasting and specially designed reports have resulted in advanced planning and cost-savings for companies throughout the transportation sector.

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