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Freight Transportation Research Trucking Conditions Index
Jun 16, 2021

FTR (Freight Transportation Research) Trucking Conditions Index (TCI) achieved a record-high of 16.82 in April, outperforming their previous record-setting month of March with a high of 16.27. 

According to FTR, contributions from freight volume, rates, and efficiency were all factors that aided in March’s success.  

“March’s record TCI was especially remarkable considering that the index’s fuel component was the most negative it had been since before the Great Recession,” said Avery Vise, FTR’s Vice President of Trucking. “Robust demand and tight capacity no doubt are big operational headaches for many trucking operations, but those factors are supporting the best market conditions ever for carriers.

"We have yet to see signs of a loosening in driver capacity, so the near-term outlook is strong.”

The TCI tracks the changes representing five major conditions in the U.S. truck market: freight volumes, freight rates, fleet capacity, fuel price, and financing. The individual metrics are combined and used to indicate the industry’s overall health. A positive score represents good, optimistic conditions while a negative score represents the opposite. Scores close to zero suggest a neutral operating environment, and scores in the double-digits, in either direction, suggest significant operating changes are likely.

FTR says a change in direction of March’s higher diesel prices enhanced overall trucking conditions, even while most market factors in April were slightly weaker. 

Although the ease of these fuel prices were momentary, FTR anticipates sturdy freight demand joined by high efficiency in factors of production and strong freight rates to allow trucking conditions to remain powerful in the future. 

“We have yet to see signs that the driver capacity situation is changing, and May’s weak payroll jobs data for trucking is one indication,” said Vise. “Over the next few months, one potential constraint – generous unemployment benefits – will end. While those benefits likely contribute to the hiring challenge, we are skeptical that their demise will fundamentally change the dynamic.

"Given robust competition for labor, trucking’s capacity challenge could linger longer than usual. One signal we are watching closely is the spot market. If rates and volumes begin to ease, that could indicate a balancing of freight demand and route guide capacity.”

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