FTR's Trucking Conditions Index (TCI) reading of 9.97 in September continues to show a positive environment for trucking. The index is expected to peak in October after which the full impact of the newly enacted hours of service rules negatively affect trucking, according to Jonathan Starks, director of transportation analysis for FTR.
Possibly mitigating the capacity constraints imposed by hours of service, but equally detrimental, is the potential for freight growth to slow in 2014 as a result of uncertainty imposed on the economy from the government shutdown and the ongoing debate about the federal budget.
"Pricing acceleration has started to show up in the data but it is easily hidden from view because the year-to-year comparison remains weak,” Starks says. “This weakness is due to the falling rates we had during the first half of the year. Month-to-month rates started moving higher in July and August which we fully expect to continue during the fall shipping season. Stronger growth, and significant y/y growth, are likely to hold off until the spring shipping season. By that time fleets will have been dealing with enough capacity and driver issues to begin moving contract rates higher. Spot rates have already shown some of these signs."
The TCI is designed to summarize a full collection of industry metrics, with a reading above zero indicating a generally positive environment for truckers. Readings above 10 would signal that volumes, prices, and margins are likely to be in a solidly favorable range for trucking companies. The details of the September TCI Index are found in the November issue of the Trucking Update published November 1. Notes by the Dashboard Light commentary discusses the US federal budget debate and what it means to trucking.