FTR’s Shippers Conditions Index (SCI) for February, as reported in the April Shippers Update, fell two points from January to -11.8, its lowest point during the pandemic. Shipping conditions weakened in February severely impacted by tight capacity and high rates. The expected stabilization in fuel costs could help mitigate the pain somewhat with the SCI measure forecast to move upward to a more modest negative range by summer.

Todd Tranausky, vice president of rail and intermodal at FTR, commented “Widespread weather-related disruptions in February weakened the conditions in the marketplace for shippers as capacity tightened and rates increased. Going forward, catch up freight volumes from disrupted businesses are likely to keep capacity tight in the coming weeks and months. As things normalize, the market will improve slightly as time goes on.”

The April issue of FTR’s Shippers Update, published April 7, provides a detailed analysis of the factors affecting the February Shippers Conditions Index and provides the forecast for this index through February of 2022. Additional analysis discusses why government data on historically lean retail inventories can be misleading unless you dig deeper.

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.