Shippers are continuing to enjoy a “mostly favorable and stable” market for sending freight, as the trucking sector has produced another month near the bottom of a cycle, according to the latest analysis from transportation analyst firm FTR.
FTR said its Shippers Conditions Index (SCI) showed a small decline in February, dipping to 5.1 from its January mark of 5.4. The result showed that slightly lower fuel costs and relatively weak freight demand offset stronger rates and utilization in the month, the Bloomington, Indiana-based firm said.
The long term outlook is for market conditions to remain in a modestly favorable range for shippers through 2023 with expected gradual deterioration in 2024.
“A relatively stable, slightly favorable outlook for shippers is unlikely to be moved over the next few months. But shippers need to carefully watch for signs the market will change as that could occur quickly,” Todd Tranausky, vice president of rail and intermodal at FTR, said in a release. “Shippers also need to closely watch the underlying economy for signs of change that could alter the economic calculus between shippers and their transportation providers.”
FTR’s SCI tracks the changes representing four major conditions in the U.S. full-load freight market: freight demand, freight rates, fleet capacity, and fuel price. Combined into a single index number, the result shows good, optimistic conditions for shippers’ freight transport environment when the number is positive, and the opposite when negative.
The FTR analysis matches up with other recent freight reports, such as a release from DAT Freight & Analytics showing that national average spot van and refrigerated truck rates plunged to two-and-half-year lows in March, despite rising demand from swelling truck freight volume.