FTR’s Shippers Conditions Index (SCI) improved in July into a positive range for the first time since September 2020 at a plus 4.5 reading from the -4.0 in June. The marked gain in shippers’ conditions during July was primarily due to the loosening of capacity utilization and sharply lower diesel prices.

The outlook is generally for shippers’ market conditions to be weaker than they were in July but better than they have been during most of the pandemic.

Todd Tranausky, vice president of rail and intermodal at FTR, commented, “Sharply lower diesel prices helped push the Shippers Conditions Index into positive territory, but there are unlikely to be similar sharp diesel drops in coming months. Additional positive momentum in the SCI will be driven by more capacity becoming available.“

The September issue of FTR’s Shippers Update, published September 7 provides a detailed analysis of the factors affecting the July Shippers Conditions Index and provides the forecast for this index through July of 2023. The September issue also includes a discussion correlating current housing market indicators and the probabilities of a recession.

The Shippers Conditions Index tracks the changes representing four major conditions in the U.S. full-load freight market. These conditions are: freight demand, freight rates, fleet capacity, and fuel price. The individual metrics are combined into a single index that tracks the market conditions that influence the shippers’ freight transport environment. A positive score represents good, optimistic conditions. A negative score represents bad, pessimistic conditions. The index tells you the industry’s health at a glance.