Indicators: Trucking conditions point to ‘better year ahead,’ freight jumped in February

CCJ‘s Indicators rounds up the latest reports on trucking business indicators on rates, freight, equipment, the economy and more.

Trucking Conditions IndexTrucking conditions point to stronger ‘17, FTR says: Market conditions for carriers, as measured by the monthly Trucking Conditions Index from FTR, remained nearly unchanged in January from December, dipping slightly between the two months. However, FTR COO Jonathan Starks says 2017 is “looking like a better year for the trucking industry,” due to expected capacity constraints prompted by increasing adoption of electronic logging devices ahead of the December 2017 compliance date and industry-wide struggles in finding and keeping drivers.

“We expect a productivity and capacity hit to the industry, though the effects will be felt differently, with early adopters ahead of the curve. One of the big issues we expect companies to continue to struggle with is the driver situation, with the number of new hires not keeping pace with overall demand for drivers,” says Starks. “If capacity doesn’t meet demand, then truckers will be able to raise prices. However, we don’t expect to see that impact until late 2017, or into 2018.”

FTR notes it’s also monitoring trade policies from the Trump Administration, which could “have immediate and detrimental impacts on freight transportation,” says Starks, should Trump policies spark a trade war.

DAT North American Freight IndexTruckload volumes up year over year in February: Freight volume on the spot market was up 48 percent in February compared to the same month in 2016, according to the DAT Freight Index. However, the overall index declined, due to what DAT says was an influx of capacity from contract carriers, which suppressed rates. The index is a measurement of spot market freight volume and rate pricing.

Van and reefer rates dipped in February, while flatbed rates climbed. DAT notes, however, that load-to-truck ratios shot up across all segments the last week of the month, pushing rates higher in the last week of the month. Flatbed capacity was particularly constrained in February, pushing rates up 4 cents from January, DAT says.