Today’s Pickup: SCI Index indicates “moderately favorable freight growth”

Good day,

Contract pricing, which has affected second-quarter earnings for a number of 3PLs, remains weak according to the latest data from FTR.

The firm’s Shippers Conditions Index (SCI) for May improved from the previous month to a reading of -1.9. “The benign reading is a reflection of only moderately favorable truck freight growth and continued weak contract pricing,” the firm said. “Spot market pricing has been rising [year-over-year] for several months. The Shippers Conditions Index is expected to have dynamic swings over the next year with shifts in overall capacity utilization and pricing taking effect as freight demand and regulations alter the landscape to differing degrees.”

FTR said indications are tighter capacity as 2018 begins but an easing of that capacity in early 2019 as regulatory drag slows.

“Shippers conditions continue to be mild,” said Jonathan Starks, COO. “This is in part because the economy hasn’t received the boost from the new Administration which many were hoping for. We are back at the status quo, with moderate growth in both the overall economy and truck freight. Contract pricing remains relatively favorable for shippers. It is only in the spot market, which continues to show strong results on both demand and rates, that we see the signs of changing conditions. We continue to expect implementation of ELDs, coupled with moderate increases in freight, to make for a more fraught environment for shippers. The closer we get to cresting 100% capacity utilization, the more worrisome the problem becomes.”
The Shippers Conditions Index tracks the changes representing four major conditions in the U.S. full-load freight market. These conditions are: freight demand, freight rates, fleet capacity, and fuel price. FTR explained that the individual metrics are combined into a single index that tracks the market conditions that influence the shippers’ freight transport environment. A positive score represents good, optimistic conditions. A negative score represents bad, pessimistic conditions. 

Did you know?

It is believed that more than 60% of truck drivers own pets, with 40% of those traveling regularly with their pets.


“We need to really have a robust infrastructure plan. I’m not talking $1 trillion. I’m talking $3- to $4 trillion; really rebuild America. Really invest in the future.”

Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

In other news:

Steel under pressure as a manufacturing material

New alternatives are being developed as the movement away from heavier steel continues in manufacturing. (Wall Street Journal)

Dem proposes spending $4T on infrastructure

Citing the ability of infrastructure to produce jobs for the middle class, one Democratic lawmaker has proposed a $4 trillion infrastructure plan. (Transport Topics)

Ports relying on yet-to-be-developed truck tech to clean up emissions

The efforts to clean up emissions at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach were ambitious from the start, but their reliance on truck technology that hasn’t been developed is even more so. (Long Beach Press Telegram)

Diesel prices rise again

For the fifth consecutive week, a gallon of diesel fuel in the U.S. has risen. Diesel rose 2.4 cents to $2.531 last week and is now 18 cents higher than a year ago. (Transport Topics)

Consumer spending up, income flat

The Commerce Department said consumer spending inched up 0.1% in June after an upwardly revised 0.2% gain in May. Personal income was unchanged, the department said. (CNBC)

Final Thoughts

Contract pricing has not been rising even though spot rates have. That has created a weak environment for contract rates, FTR said, although “dynamic swings” in the market are expected going forward.

Hammer down everyone!

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight covers general transportation news and leads the editorial team as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler.