FTR’s Shippers Conditions Index (SCI) improved in November to 3.0 from the previous -0.3 reading. A more favorable freight environment and lower fuel costs boosted the index into positive territory after two months in the negative range.

The fuel cost component remained slightly negative but improved sharply m/m while rates were the most favorable for shippers since June 2020. The outlook is solidly positive for shippers into 2024.

Todd Tranausky, vice president of rail and intermodal at FTR, commented, “The outlook has improved overall for shippers, but it will depend on exactly what mode and lane they operate in, as to how much improvement they will feel in their business. Truck-focused shippers are likely to experience the largest improvements relative to rail and intermodal shippers.”

The January issue of FTR’s Shippers Update, published January 6 provides a detailed analysis of the factors affecting the October Shippers Conditions Index and provides the forecast for this index through November of 2023. The January issue also includes commentary discussing how fuel costs influence how drivers choose to operate in the market.

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.