FTR’s January Shippers Conditions Index (SCI) fell 3 points in January to a reading of 3.4. While still positive, the SCI was the weakest it had been since September. The most significant changes from December conditions were less favorable freight rates and a slowdown in fuel cost decreases. One factor related to rates was the brief spike in trucking spot rates due to winter weather in the middle of the month. FTR expects the SCI to move closer to neutral market conditions, which are represented in the index by a reading of 0.

Avery Vise, FTR’s vice president of trucking, commented, “Until recently, market conditions for shippers were reliably favorable except at times when diesel prices soared in relatively short periods. Core freight market dynamics – freight rates, utilization, and volume – have been consistent positives for shippers. That situation is changing, albeit gradually. We expect more muted conditions through 2024, and shippers should anticipate modestly more challenging market conditions by early 2025.”

The March FTR’s Shippers Update, published March 7 provides a detailed analysis of the factors affecting the January Shippers Conditions Index and provides the forecast for this index through January 2025. Additional commentary in the March issue discusses how a stronger outlook for construction swung FTR’s 2024 truck loadings forecast by nearly a full percentage point.

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.