ACT Research
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ACT: Capacity is tight but improving

March 23, 2022
February For-Hire Trucking Index shows volume, pricing decreases, but capacity rises as drivers respond to higher pay, return to seats

The latest release of ACT’s For-Hire Trucking Index, with February 2022 data, showed decreases in the Volume and Pricing Indices, as the Capacity Index grew.

The For-Hire Trucking Index is a monthly survey of for-hire trucking service providers. ACT Research converts responses into diffusion indices, where the neutral or flat activity level is 50.

“The Volume Index fell 1.7 points in February, in line with our revised GDP forecasts for 2022, as inflation weighs on consumers’ wallets,” said Carter Vieth, a research associate at ACT. “The freight volume outlook remains positive, but COVID variants and the inflationary effects of war cast some uncertainty.

“The Capacity Index rose from January to February, ticking to 52.4. The improvement was driven by more drivers returning to seats, after Omicron increased absenteeism in January, and truck manufacturers still building at slightly above-replacement rates in February. With equipment production still challenged, the improvement in recent months is likely largely about drivers, and the sustainability of the gains will be important to the 2022 rate trajectory. Equipment may soon surpass drivers as the top constraint on trucking capacity, particularly if Ukrainian neon-related production issues further strain the Class 8 tractor fleet.”

Regarding driver availability, Vieth added: “The pandemic continues to pressure driver availability, but with labor force participation gradually and pro-cyclically picking up, as more people respond to higher pay, the trend in driver availability should continue to gradually recover.”

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