The most recent edition of the Trucking Conditions Index (TCI) issued this week by freight transportation consultancy FTR was ominous in the sense that COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the trucking market, with more of the same in the cards looking ahead.
According to FTR, a TCI reading above zero represents an adequate trucking environment, with readings above 10 indicating that volumes, prices and margin are in a good range for carriers.
The March TCI (the most recent month for which data is available) came in at -8.69. FTR said that this reading represents the beginning of negative readings, which will likely lead to the worst quarter on record.
As for April, the firm said it expects the month to post the worst likely reading, due to COVID-19-related lockdowns before there is a return to improvement, even though those improvements are likely to remain negative. And it added that it does not anticipate any positive TCI readings until mid-2021, with the pace of the economic recovery still uncertain.
“Despite a brief grocery restocking surge, overall trucking market conditions in March were the worst since the Great Recession,” said Avery Vise, FTR vice president of trucking, in a statement. “However, once we have all the data for April, March will seem like the good ol’ days by comparison. Trucking conditions certainly will improve beyond April, but the outlook remains uncertain both in demand and capacity as consumers, businesses, and trucking companies navigate an unprecedented contraction-and-restart dynamic that is further complicated by an ongoing health crisis and enormous financial support from Washington.”