FTR’s Shippers Conditions Index (SCI) for August, as reported in the October Shippers Update, continued to gradually improve to the best reading since September 2020 at -6.8, slightly better than the -8.1 July index.

A minor loosening of capacity utilization and marginally lower fuel costs contributed to the improvement in the August SCI measure. Market conditions for shippers are technically getting better, but the relief is so incremental as to be of little value.

Todd Tranausky, vice president of rail and intermodal at FTR, commented, “Conditions in August continued to head in the right direction, though not enough to provide relief for shippers. This is, however, as good as it will get for 2021. Shippers conditions are likely to degrade as the year wears on and demands for holiday shipping ramp up. Fuel, in particular, is expected to be a significant headwind as prices have increased dramatically heading into the winter season.”

The October issue of FTR’s Shippers Update, published October 7th provides a detailed analysis of the factors affecting the August Shippers Conditions Index and provides the forecast for this index through August of 2022. Included in this month’s report is a discussion of how the proposed vaccine mandate for companies with 100 or more employees might add more fuel to an ongoing capacity shift toward small carriers.

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.