The most recent edition of the Shipping Conditions Index (SCI), which was issued by freight transportation consultancy FTR, again remained in growth mode, despite declining sequentially.
FTR describes the SCI as an indicator that sums up all market influences that affect the transport environment for shippers, with a reading above zero being favorable and a reading below being unfavorable and a “less-than-ideal environment for shippers.”
For March, the most recent month for which data is available, the SCI reading fell to 4.5, following February’s 5.1 reading and January’s 5.4. These readings are nearly half of December’s 10.3, to finish 2022. November’s 3.0 reading was preceded by -3.1 and -0.3 readings in September and October, respectively.
FTR said that the March reading represents only the third time going back to March 2020 that each of the four freight factors comprising the SCI—freight demand, capacity utilization, rates, and fuel costs—were positive contributors to the SCI. And it added that more favorable rates and lower fuel costs were partially offset by tighter capacity and stronger volume, with the 2023 outlook for shippers viewed as stable.
“Despite the small decline, the overall story of positive shipper conditions and a stable outlook remains in place this month and are expected to hold firm for the balance of 2023,” said Todd Tranausky, FTR vice president of rail and intermodal, in a statement. “All four components of the index were positive for the first time since 2020 this month, signaling the lack of pressure in the system at the present time.”