FTR’s March Shippers Conditions Index Reflects Continuing Tough Environment for Shippers

The March Shippers Conditions Index reading from FTR remained in double digit negative territory at -10.5 reflecting the continued tough environment facing shippers.  Conditions remain highly unfavorable with tight capacity and rising rates in both truckload and intermodal sectors.  Shippers may see some relief after the second quarter and conditions may improve further during Q4.  One bright spot for shippers is that the hard enforcement of the ELD regulation, based on spot-market data, does not appear to have had a major impact.  


FTR’s Trucking Conditions Index Drops in March, Remains in Carrier-Favorable Environment

FTR’s Trucking Conditions Index (TCI) for March dropped from the previous month of 15.41 to a reading of 10.30. This is, however, not indicative of any fundamental change in the current freight demand climate. Indeed, y/y the Trucking Conditions Index remains more than triple the 2017 reading of 2.97. The carrier-favorable environment is not expected to see any real change at least through 2018 with even more positive conditions during the second and third quarter.  FTR forecasts conditions for carriers stabilizing at a high level into 2019 as fleets continue to add capacity and the supply-chain adjusts to the ELD regulation.

Details of the March TCI are found in the May issue of FTR’s Trucking Update, published April 27, 2018. The ‘Notes by the Dashboard Light’ section in the current issue includes an in-depth analysis of the flatbed transportation segment. Along with the TCI and ‘Notes by the Dashboard Light,’ the Trucking Update includes data and analysis on load volumes, the capacity environment, rates, costs, and the truck driver situation.


FTR Reports Good Preliminary April Trailer Orders That Reflect Continued Seasonal Pattern

 FTR reports preliminary April trailer orders at 22,000 units, a m/m decline of 20% from March which simply reflects a typical seasonal adjustment.  April 2018 trailer orders were still solid for the month, with a +10% comparison y/y and 21% higher than the excellent year of 2015.  Backlogs will now begin to decline as is typical this time of year.  Trailer orders have totaled 330,000 for the past twelve months.


FTR Reports April North American Class 8 Orders Dropped from Exceptionally Strong March as Expected

FTR reports preliminary North American Class 8 orders for April dropped 12,000 units from the stratospheric March numbers to 34,700 units for the month.  While this was the largest drop m/m since 2011, it was completely expected and still up 50% versus April 2017. Demand for trucks remains at record levels and fleets are still attempting to add capacity as fast as possible in this market.  North American Class 8 orders for the past twelve months have now totaled 368,000 units.


FTR’s February Shippers Conditions Index Shows Strong Freight Demand and Unfavorable Shipping Environment

The February Shippers Conditions Index reading from FTR was unchanged from January at -11.1, reflecting an unfavorable environment for shippers. Regulatory pressures are rising, and the capacity required for a hot freight market was slow to increase in the first quarter, putting pressure on rates. Freight growth during the first quarter typically softens after a strong holiday season, but not in 2018. FTR’s truck loadings index is expected to see growth of 4% to 6% y/y into 2019. A continued capacity crunch in the truckload segment could result in bleed-over of freight volume to LTL which would further increase shippers’ costs. 


FTR’s Trucking Conditions Index for February Reflects a “Best Ever” Environment for Carriers

FTR’s Trucking Conditions Index (TCI) for February reflects an environment for carriers that has never been better. The current reading of 15.41 is the highest since FTR began tracking the conditions index in 1992. The index jumped four points from the January reading and could improve still more through (at least) Q2, fueled by an even stronger economy. The first quarter of the year is typically a soft period for freight growth, but not in 2018. FTR’s Truck Loading Index, which is a major component of the TCI, should see growth of 4% to 6% y/y into 2019. Rate stabilization and labor/equipment costs that soften carrier margins could moderate the TCI reading in the second half of the year..  


FTR Reports Preliminary March Trailer Orders Seasonally Decline M/M But Remain Historically Strong

FTR reports preliminary March trailer orders at 27,500, which reflect a typical seasonal decline from February, down 16% m/m.  However, orders were historically strong with order activity at the highest level for the month of March since 2014 and up 34% from March 2017.   The order volume should increase backlogs slightly as build rates are expected to increase in the coming months.  Trailer orders have totaled 328,000 for the past twelve months.


FTR Reports North American Class 8 Orders for Q1 2018 Largest Total of any Quarter in History.

FTR reports preliminary North American Class 8 orders for March, at 46,300 units, which is the third highest month on record, 15% above February and up 103% y/y. Orders for Q1 2018 were the largest totals of any quarter in history. March orders again exceeded expectations as demand for trucks are at record levels.  Fleets are attempting to add capacity as fast as possible in a dynamic market.  Some OEM’s had exceptional order months as fleets scramble to lock in order slots for this year.