FTR’s Trucking Conditions Index (TCI) reading for September increased marginally to 11.79 from 11.63 in August. Freight rates continued to strengthen in September, but freight volume and capacity utilization were not as beneficial to carriers as they were in July and August. FTR’s forecast remains for strong positive TCI readings well into 2022.

Details of the September TCI are found in the November 2021 issue of FTR’s Trucking Update, published October 29. The November issue also discusses whether the surging cost of diesel might have broader consequences for the freight market. Beyond the TCI and additional commentary, the Trucking Update includes data and analysis on load volumes, the capacity environment, rates, and the economy.

Avery Vise, FTR’s vice president of trucking, commented, “The market remains stubbornly favorable to carriers due in large part to continued strong consumer spending and the effects of supply chain troubles on productivity. The latest payroll employment data for trucking implies a considerably stronger recovery in driver capacity than had appeared previously, but the ongoing surge in newly authorized small carriers continues to shift capacity and thwart a return to normal. Moreover, even if carriers start to see recruiting challenges ease up, continued struggles in truck production due to parts and material shortages could limit capacity in the months ahead. A key factor for the freight market will be whether consumer spending remains so robust beyond the holidays and the end of advance child tax credit payments in December.”

The TCI tracks the changes representing five major conditions in the U.S. truck market. These conditions are: freight volumes, freight rates, fleet capacity, fuel price, and financing. The individual metrics are combined into a single index indicating 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.