FTR’s Trucking Conditions Index for March reflected persistent unfavorable conditions for carriers with a decrease to a reading of -5.83 for the month from -5.17 in February. Lower fuel costs and slightly stronger utilization partially offset a more negative rate environment as spot rates continued to deteriorate. Financing costs are also still a challenge. Market conditions are expected to remain at least modestly unfavorable for trucking companies into 2024.

Avery Vise, FTR’s vice president of trucking, commented, “The data that drives our forecasting model still suggests that market conditions for trucking companies are at or near bottom, but the recovery looks fairly shallow – certainly compared to recent markets. We have yet to see clear indications that enough drivers are exiting the market to set the stage for a capacity-driven rebound. Although many very small carriers are failing, so far larger carriers have absorbed that driver capacity. Freight demand appears just strong enough to keep most drivers employed but not strong enough to keep them fully utilized.”

Details of the March TCI are found in the May 2023 issue of FTR’s Trucking Update, published on April 28. The May edition also includes commentary addressing how the Federal Reserve’s recent annual revision of industrial production data affected FTR’s historical truck loadings estimates for specific equipment types. Beyond the TCI and additional commentary, the Trucking Update includes data and analysis on load volumes, the capacity environment, rates, and the economy.

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 prices, and financing costs. 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.