May Trucking Conditions Index numbers bounce back sharply from April low, but still negative at -5.19, FTR says

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Consumer demand helped the trucking industry’s recovery during May, with a sharp increase in freight.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — FTR’s Trucking Conditions Index reading for May rebounded from its worst-ever level in April to a reading of -5.19. While much improved, May’s reading is still quite negative from a historical perspective. A sharp increase in freight was primarily responsible for the improvement, as rates and utilization were still weak.

Consumers led the way as May brought the expected rebound in freight indicators. A less negative industrial production forecast is the main contributor to a firmer freight outlook for the balance of 2020.

FTR May Graph
After a drastic drop in April, the Trucking Conditions Index showed marked improvement in May, but the score is still in the negative zone at -5.19. (Courtesy: FTR)

Details of the May Trucking Conditions Index can be found in the July issue of FTR’s Trucking Update, published June 30. Additional commentary provides updates on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and expectations for recovery. Beyond the Trucking Conditions Index and FTR’s COVID-19 intelligence, the Trucking Update includes data and analysis on load volumes, the capacity environment, rates, costs and the truck-driver situation.

“The spot market is the strongest in two years, which certainly suggests upside to our current outlook,” said Avery Vise, FTR’s vice president of trucking.

“However, the recent increases in COVID-19 cases in some large U.S. states mean that we are not out of the woods yet, as some states are moderating their reopening and many universities and school systems remain uncertain about their plans,” Vise continued. “We are also concerned that the recovery to date is fueled substantially by unprecedented financial assistance from Washington and that further such assistance might be necessary to keep the economy on track.”

FTR’s Trucking Conditions Index tracks the changes representing five major conditions in the U.S. truck market — freight volumes, freight rates, fleet capacity, fuel price and financing. The individual metrics are combined into a single index that indicates 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 in either direction suggest significant operating changes are likely.

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