The news edition of the Trucking Conditions Index, which was issued today by freight transportation consultancy FTR, again pointed to sequential declines while remaining in negative territory.
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.
For March, the most recent month for which data is available, the TCI dropped to -5.83, following February’s -5.17 reading. This was preceded by January’s -1.71 reading, which came on the heels of December’s -6.1 and November’s -7.94. That was preceded by October’s -11.25, its lowest level since the April 2020 all-time low, at -28.66. The September TCI reading came in at -2.35.
FTR officials said that the March reading is a byproduct of what it described as persistent unfavorable conditions for carriers. And they pointed to lower fuel costs and slightly stronger utilization that partially offset a more negative rate environment, with spot markets continuing to deteriorate. What’s more, FTR said that financing costs remain a challenge, with market conditions expected to remain at least modestly unfavorable for motor carriers into 2024.
“The data that drives our forecasting model still suggests that market conditions for trucking companies are at or near bottom, but the recovery looks fairly shallow—certainly compared to recent markets,” said Avery Vise, FTR’s vice president of trucking, in a statement. “We have yet to see clear indications that enough drivers are exiting the market to set the stage for a capacity-driven rebound. Although many very small carriers are failing, so far larger carriers have absorbed that driver capacity. Freight demand appears just strong enough to keep most drivers employed but not strong enough to keep them fully utilized.”