ACT Research’s September For-Hire Trucking Index Suggests Gradually Improving Freight Market

The latest release of ACT Research’s For-Hire Trucking Index showed continued improvement in freight volumes, pricing and driver availability.

The volume index fell 4.9 points in September to 49.5 on a seasonally adjusted basis from 54.4 in August. While retrenched from the one-off surge last month, September’s reading still showed a gradually improving volume trend, according to ACT Research.

“Freight demand fundamentals are starting to improve after nearly two years of substitution, destocking and inflation,” Tim Denoyer, vice president and senior analyst at ACT Research, said. “Rising interest rates, declining savings and private fleet growth are ongoing headwinds to for-hire volumes. However, with improving goods consumption trends, the end of destocking and a resilient industrial sector, we expect the gradually improving trend to continue.”

The pricing index jumped meaningfully in September, up 9.2 points to 48.5 on a seasonally adjusted basis, as rates continue to stabilize.

“The pricing environment is showing signs of starting to firm, but declines should persist in the near term as capacity additions and an elevated focus on labor retention persist,” Denoyer said. “Improvements in volumes and slowly decreasing for-hire capacity are positive signs for pricing. Spot rates have been steady for four months as the rebalancing rolls along.”

The driver availability index hit an all-time high in September with a reading of 62.

According to ACT Research, fleets are continuing to experience a large influx of drivers and at an unprecedented rate in the survey’s history. The survey sample encompasses mainly medium and large for-hire fleets, and it’s clear many of these drivers are coming from the challenged owner-operator market, according to ACT Research. With still recent scars from pandemic driver shortages, employers across the industry are focused on labor retention—a similar theme across much of the economy, according to ACT Research.

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