An index of economic conditions in the trucking sector bumped up slightly in December, but remains on track to linger near the bottom of an economic cycle through the first half of 2020, according to a report from industry consulting firm FTR.
The firm's Trucking Conditions Index (TCI) rose to 3.02 in December on improved freight demand and spot rates, Bloomington, Indiana-based FTR said. That number was the measure's highest in 11 months and its first positive reading since hitting 0.28 in July. But FTR expects the TCI to return to readings closer to neutral conditions before "improving modestly" in the second half of 2020.
The TCI tracks changes in five major conditions in the U.S. truck market, including: freight volumes, freight rates, fleet capacity, fuel price, and financing. FTR combines those metrics into a single index indicating the industry's overall health, with a positive score representing good, optimistic conditions and a negative score showing the opposite.
"Market conditions were somewhat stronger than anticipated in December, but it's probably a bit of an outlier," Avery Vise, FTR's vice president of trucking, said in a release. "We don't see that the fundamentals have changed materially. Utilization remains soft, and we don't see near-term pressure from freight demand. A stronger recovery probably would require capacity exiting the market faster than has been the case so far."