Trucking decelerated, but remained strong in August

Trucking decelerated, but remained strong in August

The latest release of ACT Research’s For-Hire Trucking Index, with August data, showed a drop in volumes and pricing, with a still-strong supply-demand balance. 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 activity level is 50.

“Despite the Volume Index slowing, end-demand remains strong and the slowdown is partly due to capacity limitations, from ports to trucks to trailers to drivers,” said Tim Denoyer, vice president and senior analyst at ACT Research. “With inventories rebuilding, strong U.S. consumer balance sheets, booming capital goods orders and infrastructure stimulus in the pipeline, the fundamentals of the freight cycle remain positive.

“The pricing environment remains tight, but the Pricing Index slipped this month, likely reflecting a degree of capacity rebalancing. Though new equipment production is still challenged and freight demand remains strong, early signs of driver hiring improvements are beginning to change the recent recipe for record rate increases.”

Regarding the supply-demand balance, Denoyer noted, “This reading shows some rebalancing amid the overall tight freight environment, with a bit of easing in the acute tightness of the past 14 months. Class 8 sales are constrained by parts shortages and tight inventories, so equipment capacity is lagging demand. With some structural driver issues likely to outlast the pandemic and a generally positive freight outlook, we do not expect the market to loosen quickly, but the rebalancing has begun.”

This month’s survey also included a question about unseated capacity, and it’s safe to conclude from the range of responses that there’s an above-average number of unseated tractors around the for-hire sector these days.

“The driver recovery is the key factor to watch, and our Driver Availability Index continued to climb again this month,” Denoyer said.

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