ACT For-Hire Trucking Index Volumes Lowest in Survey’s 10-Year History

The latest release of ACT Research’s For-Hire Trucking Index, with March data, showed further contraction for both volumes and freight rates, now at 42.4 and 43.2 respective diffusion index readings. Productivity, while neutral at 50.0, likely was supported by the temporary pantry-stocking phenomenon.

Tim Denoyer, ACT Research’s vice president and senior analyst commented, “Because of the talk surrounding a surge in freight driven by pantry stocking, the Volume Index decline was somewhat surprising, but likely reflects the start of shutdowns late in March.”

Regarding the drop in freight rates, he said, “COVID-19 is adding a new level of pricing pressure due to the sharp decline in load volumes into an already overcapacitized market. Our for-hire carriers continue to show better capacity discipline than the industry at large, which we see as a good leading indicator of tighter capacity down the road.”

When asked about the overall picture, Denoyer explained, “The supply-demand balance reading accelerated to the downside in March at 44.9, after a modestly negative reading in February, at 48.8 seasonally adjusted. The cyclical bottom that was being built prior to COVID-19 has been laid low by the health crisis. Fleets are taking aggressive actions to protect their people, including: following CDC guidelines, implementing virtual meetings and orientations, limiting use of cash, and finding creative ways to procure sanitizer.”

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.

The ACT Freight Forecast provides forecasts for the direction of truck volumes and contract rates quarterly through 2020 with three years of annual forecasts for the truckload, less-than-truckload and intermodal segments of the transportation industry. For the truckload spot market, the report provides forecasts for the next twelve months. In 2019, the average accuracy of the report’s truckload spot rate forecasts was 98%. The ACT Research Freight Forecast uses equipment capacity modeling and the firm’s economics expertise to provide unprecedented visibility for the future of freight rates, helping businesses in transportation and logistics management plan for the future with confidence.

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