FTR
FTR Trucking Conditions Index

FTR: COVID-19 pandemic taking toll on Trucking Conditions Index

April 24, 2020
“The trucking industry—like the rest of the economy—has never seen such an abrupt deterioration,” FTR vice president says.

Sharp declines in freight volumes, utilization and rates due to the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to the worst overall trucking conditions on record during the second quarter of this year, according to FTR’s projections for the Trucking Conditions Index (TCI).

FTR forecasts the TCI will hit its lowest points in April and May, but the current outlook is for the index to remain negative well into 2021.   The most recent final index reading was 0.96 for February, which was down from January but still slightly positive. Before the COVID-19 crisis in March, the TCI had been positive for three straight months, which had not happened in a year.   “Although trucking conditions might prove to be comparable to the worst of the Great Recession, the trucking industry—like the rest of the economy—has never seen such an abrupt deterioration,” said Avery Vise, vice president of trucking. “The need to restock grocery shelves provided a brief boost for some segments, but the economic shutdown now has taken a toll on the whole industry.

“While an economic restart likely will begin in May, the damage wrought during this period will weaken trucking conditions for months to come.”    Details of the February TCI are found in the April issue of FTR’s Trucking Update, published March 31. The April Trucking Update also includes data, analysis and commentary on load volumes, the capacity environment, rates, costs and the truck driver situation, considering the economic contraction due to COVID-19.   Because the impact of COVID-19 is fluid and uncertain, FTR also has been publishing analysis that is available to the public at ftrintel.com/coronavirus. That page features:

  • April 16 update to the FTR Freight Outlook
  • An interactive heatmap reflecting how the COVID-19 crisis is affecting spot market rates and load volumes in trucking
  • April 17 Weekly Transportation Update with information for all modes of transportation and economic outlook information
  • April 16 webinar replay for The Outlook After Coronavirus
  • Economic Outlook webinar replay and report with the forecast for the rest of the year and into 2021

The TCI tracks the changes representing five major conditions in the US truck market: freight volumes, freight rates, fleet capacity, fuel price and financing. The individual metrics are combined into a single index indicating the industry’s overall health. A positive score represents good, optimistic conditions. Conversely, a negative score represents bad, pessimistic conditions. Readings near zero are consistent with a neutral operating environment, and double-digit readings (up or down) suggest significant operating changes are likely.