The latest release of ACT’s For-Hire Trucking Index, with November data, showed relatively neutral readings on for-hire freight volumes and rates, with 51.5 and 50.9 respective diffusion index readings. With a slight contraction in for-hire capacity, the supply-demand balance remained in modestly positive territory for a fifth straight month. However, the Productivity Index fell to 48.4 in November, from 53.9 in October.
Tim Denoyer, ACT Research’s vice president and senior analyst commented, “With some key caveats, we think the string of positive supply-demand results is a positive leading indicator for a capacity rebalancing in 2020. The first caveat is that private fleets, the other half of the industry, are not showing the same capacity discipline as the for-hire fleets. The second is that the freight volume outlook remains muted, with a soft manufacturing sector and trade-related inventory overhang likely outweighing relief from the China phase-one deal, which is yet to be signed.”
He continued, “Tractor utilization has been choppy all year, amid soft freight and overcapacity, but the biggest surprise in this month’s survey was the sharp reversal in tractor productivity, a signal that while the freight recession is likely in the late-innings, the trucking industry is still staring at difficult conditions in the near-term.”
The ACT For-Hire Trucking Index is a monthly survey of for-hire trucking service providers. ACT Research converts responses into diffusion indexes, where the neutral or flat level is 50.
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