FTR’s Trucking Conditions Index Remains Strongly Positive in May

FTR’s Trucking Conditions Index (TCI) for May, as reported in the July issue of the Trucking Update, eased slightly from the April record reading (16.82) to a still-robust 15.72.  Stronger freight rates would have pushed the index to a third straight record, but a swing in diesel prices from a slight positive in April to a negative in May, along with slightly weaker capacity utilization, offset those gains. The TCI is forecast to remain at double-digit positive readings through 2021 and to remain positive through 2022. However, this outlook depends on only incremental improvement in driver capacity in the near term.

Details of the May TCI are found in the July 2021 issue of FTR’s Trucking Update, published June 30, which includes details on how a recent revision in historical industrial production data affects FTR’s truck freight volume forecasts. Beyond the TCI and additional commentary, the Trucking Update includes data and analysis on load volumes, the capacity environment, rates, and the economy. FTR also publishes ongoing publicly available analysis on the impact of COVID-19 on freight transportation at www.ftrintel.com/coronavirus.

Avery Vise, FTR’s vice president of trucking, commented, “Market conditions in the flatbed segment appear to be stabilizing, but we do not have clear signs of the stress in the van markets easing. The solid increase in for-hire trucking’s payroll employment during June might be a hint that the market is peaking, but we expect considerable friction to remain in the supply of drivers at least into next year. However, one of the market stresses has been the unprecedented surge in small new trucking operations, which has added to market disruptions. With high diesel prices and truck insurance costs, we would expect many of those drivers to return to the security of larger employers once spot rates start falling significantly. This possibility along with the end of generous unemployment benefits represent risks in the outlook.”

The TCI tracks the changes representing five major conditions in the U.S. truck market. These conditions are: freight volumes, freight rates, fleet capacity, fuel price, and financing. The individual metrics are combined into a single index indicating the industry’s overall health. A positive score represents good, optimistic conditions. Conversely, a negative score represents bad, pessimistic conditions. Readings near zero are consistent with a neutral operating environment, and double-digit readings in either direction suggest significant operating changes are likely.

In addition to the monthly updates on trucking conditions, FTR offers a weekly Trucking Market Update on the State of Freight Podcast. The weekly update, hosted by Avery Vise, covers spot market and economic indicators and major industry developments. Listen to recent episodes and download the accompanying graph package.

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For more than 30 years, FTR has served as the industry leader in freight transportation forecasting for the shipping, trucking, rail, intermodal, equipment, and financial communities in North America. With over 250 years of combined experience in the transportation industry, FTR experts provide quantitative analysis with historical and modal-specific insights. FTR’s reports, data, commentary, and insights help clients evaluate market risks, identify new opportunities, and make informed decisions.

FTR is the only company with a complete set of freight data for all modes of transportation with detail at the three-digit STCC commodity level. FTR tracks and forecasts 200+ unique commodity groups both quarterly and annually using their proprietary Freight•cast U.S. freight transportation model.

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