The improvement was due primarily to a slightly firmer rate environment and lower diesel prices. The 2018 November TCI was basically unchanged from a year ago, in spite of the volatility affecting the index over the past twelve months. The future outlook for the index is generally a more stable path in 2019 culminating in a near neutral reading by mid-year.
Details of the November TCI are found in the January issue of FTR’s Trucking Update, published in late December. The ‘Notes by the Dashboard Light’ section in the current issue reviews new orders to analyze the future durability of the manufacturing sector. Along with the TCI and ‘Notes by the Dashboard Light,’ the Trucking Update includes data and analysis on load volumes, the capacity environment, rates, costs, and the truck driver situation.
“We would anticipate that trucking conditions will be relatively stable through the first quarter of 2019 and perhaps a bit beyond that, but the second half of the year should be noticeably weaker due to factors such as lower active truck utilization and increased cost of capital," said Avery Vise, vice president of trucking for FTR. "At this point we expect trucking conditions still to be slightly positive by the end of the year, although the downside risks clearly seem greater than the upside.”
The Trucking Conditions Index tracks the changes representing five major conditions in the U.S. truck market. These conditions are: freight volumes, freight rates, fleet capacity, fuel price, and financing. The individual metrics are combined into a single index that tracks the market conditions that influence fleet behavior. A positive score represents good, optimistic conditions. Conversely, a negative score represents bad, pessimistic conditions. The index tells you the industry’s health at a glance. In life, running a fever is an indication of a health problem. It may not tell you exactly what’s wrong, but it alerts you to look deeper. Similarly, a reading well below zero on the FTR Trucking Conditions Index warns you of a problem, while readings high above zero spell opportunity. Readings near zero are consistent with a neutral operating environment, and double-digit readings (both up or down) are warning signs for significant operating changes.