In the latest sign of volatility in the freight sector, a measure of trucking conditions rebounded slightly in April, only to achieve a nearly two-year low point.
Freight transportation analysis firm FTR said that diesel prices stabilized in April, but softer capacity utilization and freight rates made for positive but lackluster market conditions. Looking farther into the future, the outlook is mildly positive in the near term, but ongoing fuel price increases and other factors could result in further negative readings, the Bloomington, Indiana-based firm said.
By the numbers, FTR’s Trucking Conditions Index (TCI) rebounded to a reading of 3.21 for April after sinking to -7.38 for March. The index tracks changes in five conditions in the U.S. truck market: freight volumes, freight rates, fleet capacity, fuel price, and financing. Combined into a single score, the number represents good, optimistic conditions when positive and bad, pessimistic conditions when negative.
“Recent strong gains in trucking’s payroll employment support our analysis that freight demand has remained solid and that weaker spot market metrics this year indicate a shift of activity back to more normal route guides,” Avery Vise, FTR’s vice president of trucking, said in a release. “Driver availability no longer is the key issue to watch in trucking conditions; increasingly, the principal question will be the resilience of freight demand. Downside risks are high and growing due to inflation and related stresses, but our forecasting model so far is not identifying a downturn.”