Cost management key as trucking conditions deteriorate: FTR

by Today's Trucking

Trucking conditions were “broadly negative” in December, according to FTR’s Trucking Conditions Index (TCI), but were slightly better than the previous month thanks to lower diesel prices.

The -6.1 reading was an improvement from November’s -7.94. However, the industry forecaster noted freight volumes, capacity utilization and rates were all unfavorable in December. The rates component of the index was its lowest level since May 2020.

TCI chart

FTR is expecting negative readings to persist until late 2024.

“Our forecasts indicate continued deterioration in overall market conditions for trucking companies, but uncertainty is still surprisingly high considering that we are nearly three years past the pandemic-induced contraction,” FTR vice-president – trucking, Avery Vise said in a release.

“Even as record numbers of small for-hire carriers exit the market, payroll job growth in trucking continues to rise, suggesting that overall driver capacity is not falling much – if at all – so far. Although this trend might be reassuring in the near term, it could limit carriers’ margin gains in the next upturn. Freight rates are weakening, but in the contract arena, they look to remain significantly higher than the peak of the last cycle. Carriers’ ability to manage costs always is key to profitability but perhaps never more so than now.”

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