September Trucking Conditions Index falls, but improvement expected in 2016

The FTR Trucking Conditions Index fell to a reading of 8.46 in September due to continued fragile market conditions which are expected to balance out in 2016.

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FTR’s Trucking Conditions Index (TCI) measure for September declined from the previous month to a reading of 8.46. The TCI has been uneven through 2015 and is expected to decline further at year end. The trucking environment remains in a fragile equilibrium between decent freight growth and lower, but still high, capacity utilization. Price growth in 2015 has been very modest, but a more positive TCI in 2016 will reflect expected rate increases later in the year.   

Jonathan Starks, Director of Transportation Analysis at FTR, comments, “Inventory destocking, sluggish trade and weak manufacturing have created an environment much different than last year for truckers and transportation professionals. While overall capacity is relatively tight, there is a dichotomy between what is seen in the contract potion versus the spot market. As supply has increased relative to demand, loads have moved back to the contract and dedicated markets that ran out of excess capacity in 2014 due to regulations and weather. The spot market, on the other hand, is showing definite weakness, with load activity weak, truck supply up significantly, and rates down from prior year. Contract rates continue to rise, although they have started to show some slowing. The market is relatively stable, with the major risk coming from a potential slowdown in freight demand due to the items mentioned earlier. If slow growth in the economy continues, the next significant change in market conditions isn’t expected until fleets start implementing the coming regulations. That is likely to occur in the second half of 2016.”