Act Research: For-Hire Recovery Stalled by Private Fleet Productivity

The latest release of ACT Research’s For-Hire Trucking Index continues to reflect a slowly recovering for-hire trucking market. The Volume Index decreased 4.1 points in April to 41.7, seasonally adjusted (SA), from 45.8 in March.

“Evidence and anecdotes suggest private fleets have taken some volume from the for-hire market,” Carter Vieth, research analyst at ACT Research, said. “Given private fleets’ cost disadvantage, and lack of incentive for backhauls, we don’t expect this to last long, and recent Class 8 data suggests private fleet capacity additions are slowing, a welcome sign after an extended downturn.”

The Capacity Index decreased by 3 points month over month to 44.2 in April. The decrease continues to reflect challenging for-hire conditions, with low rates and higher costs driving fleet contraction, as evidenced by the worst quarter for profitability amongst the publicly traded TL carriers in fourteen years.

“Class 8 sales trends suggest the ongoing capacity additions at private fleets, a key reason the downcycle has drawn out so long, are slowing too, reducing overall capacity additions and downward rate pressure,” Vieth said.

The Supply-Demand Balance fell in April to 47.5 (SA), from 48.5 in March, as volumes decreased more than capacity.

“While private fleet competition has weighed on volumes the past few months, it’s not likely to last long,” Vieth said. “Solid performance of rates and the load/truck ratio in the spot market through Roadcheck suggest the gradually improving volume trends will support the market balance in 2024. Overall, the supply-demand balance suggests a market close to the elusive and impermanent equilibrium.”

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