FTR’s Trucking Conditions Index improved in November to -7.94 despite a weakened freight rate environment. October’s -11.16 TCI reading had been the weakest since the April 2020 contraction. The only positive contribution to the November index was freight volume, but all other index factors were less negative than in October aside from freight rates, which were the most negative since May 2020.

Avery Vise, FTR’s vice president of trucking, commented, “The outlook for trucking conditions has changed little, and we still do not forecast any positive readings for the Trucking Conditions Index until late 2024. The recent deceleration in consumer inflation certainly is a positive development, but we do not anticipate that it will lead to any meaningful increase in consumption. The industrial sector remains sluggish. Improved automotive output remains an upside possibility but only if vehicle sales improve and the supply chain remains stable. Slowing trucking job growth and carrier creation coupled with a surge in carrier failures likely mean the industry is starting to lose driver capacity. If so, market conditions for carriers might outperform our current outlook starting late this year as capacity could prove tighter than reflected in our forecast, potentially leading to stronger rates.”

Details of the November TCI are found in the January 2023 issue of FTR’s Trucking Update, published on December 22. The January edition also includes commentary discussing how fuel costs influence how drivers choose to operate in the market. 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.