The latest release of ACT’s For-Hire Trucking Index, with October data, showed a decrease in volumes, pricing, and productivity, with capacity up slightly and with a lower but still-healthy supply-demand balance.
The ACT For-Hire Trucking Index is a monthly survey of for-hire trucking service providers. ACT Research converts responses into diffusion indexes, where the neutral or flat activity level is 50.
“While the pandemic continues to cast uncertainty, the freight volume outlook remains positive,” said Tim Denoyer, vice president and senior analyst at ACT Research. “In spite of the supply-chain constraints, retailers have managed to stock up ahead of the holidays, the consumer balance sheet is strong, and massive restocking demand remains ahead.
“The most critical survey takeaways this month revolve around the driver market, with the Driver Availability Index improving considerably in October, as it became clear that most fleets will be exempt from proposed federal vaccine rules. The large fleets who train the vast majority of the industry’s drivers would be impacted by the mandate, though it appears only driver schools and team drivers will fall outside of the exemptions. We see ongoing supply-chain turgidity limiting capacity growth, but the pace of hiring is gradually improving, which will be key to the rate trajectory.”
Regarding the supply-demand balance, Denoyer noted, “We continue to see a slower-than-normal rebalancing in U.S. trucking markets, featuring record rate increases. Equipment capacity is tight as Class 8 tractor and trailer sales are constrained by parts shortages, leaving immense unmet demand. With some structural driver issues likely to outlast the pandemic and a generally positive freight outlook, we do not expect the market to loosen quickly.”
The ACT Freight Forecast provides forecasts for spot truckload rates by trailer type for four to six quarters and truck volumes and contract rates for three years for the truckload, less-than-truckload, and intermodal segments of the transportation industry.
In 2019, the average accuracy of the report’s truckload spot rate forecasts was 98%.