ACT Research: For-Hire Trucking Index Shows Continued Declines in April

ACT Research Co.
4 min readMay 25, 2023

Freight volumes, rates, and capacity continued their decline in April, according to the latest release of ACT’s For-Hire Trucking Index.

The Trucking Volume Index weakened further in April, at 37.6 versus 44.6 in March. Destocking contributed to the softness, although the 24% y/y decline in container imports in Q1 likely represents the worst of the destocking.

a graph showing the ACT For-Hire Trucking Index: Volumes with data from January 2014 through April 2023
ACT For-Hire Trucking Index: Volumes

Tim Denoyer, Vice President & Senior Analyst at ACT Research, commented, “A slowing in destocking would be a positive for volumes. Inflation, while showing tentative improvement, continues to impact consumer spending power, with retail sales in real terms down 3.6% y/y in April. The slow start produce season may also be a headwind.”

The Pricing Index’s slide continues, falling 2.7 points to 33.4 in April from 36.1 in March. This is the second lowest reading in the index’s history, with only April 2020 being lower.

a graph showing the ACT For-Hire Trucking Index: Freight Rates with data from January 2014 through April 2023
ACT For-Hire Trucking Index: Freight Rates

Denoyer added, “We believe the cure for low prices is low prices, and since October 2022 the DOT has revoked a net 11k operating authorities. While the pricing pendulum remains with shippers for now, the next capacity rebalancing has begun. With capacity slowing and set to decline later this year, rate trends should begin to recover as soon as traction on freight volumes is established.”

The Capacity Index ticked down by 0.8 points m/m to 51.8 in April, still growing, but at a slower rate than in 2022. Improvements in equipment production and drivers, due to improvements in the supply chain and drivers seeking safe harbor in larger fleets, helped grow capacity for the past 18 months.

a graph showing the ACT For-Hire Trucking Index: Fleet Capacity with data from January 2014 through April 2023
ACT For-Hire Trucking Index: Fleet Capacity

The Supply-Demand Balance loosened further in April, to 35.8 from 42.0 in March, largely due to the m/m decline in volumes, but the slight downtick in capacity also added to the looser reading.

Denoyer concluded, “April marked the fourteenth consecutive underwater point in the series. For context, in the 2015–2016 downcycle, the Supply-Demand Balance was loose for 17 of 19 months. While conditions remain loose, the seeds have been sown for a rebalancing.”

ACT Research: Freight Forecast

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. Please contact us at trucks@actresearch.net if you are a for-hire executive interested in participating. In return, participants receive a detailed monthly analysis of the survey data, including Volumes, Freight Rates, Driver Availability, Capacity, Productivity and Purchasing Intentions, plus a complimentary copy of ACT’s Transportation Digest report.

ACT Research Freight Forecast provides analysis and forecasts for a broad range of U.S. freight measures, including the Cass Freight Index®, Cass Truckload Linehaul Index®, and DAT spot and contract rates by trailer type. The service provides monthly, quarterly, and annual predictions for the truckload, less-than-truckload, and intermodal markets over a two- to three-year time horizon, including capacity, volumes, and rates. The ACT Research Freight Forecast uses equipment capacity modeling and the firm’s industry 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.

ACT Research is recognized as the leading publisher of commercial vehicle truck, trailer, and bus industry data, market analysis and forecasts for the North America and China markets. ACT’s analytical services are used by all major North American truck and trailer manufacturers and their suppliers, as well as banking and investment companies. ACT Research is a contributor to the Blue Chip Economic Indicators and a member of the Wall Street Journal Economic Forecast Panel. ACT Research executives have received peer recognition, including election to the Board of Directors of the National Association for Business Economics, appointment as Consulting Economist to the National Private Truck Council, and the Lawrence R. Klein Award for Blue Chip Economic Indicators’ Most Accurate Economic Forecast over a four-year period. ACT Research senior staff members have earned accolades including Chicago Federal Reserve Automotive Outlook Symposium Best Overall Forecast, Wall Street Journal Top Economic Outlook, and USA Today Top 10 Economic Forecasters. More information can be found at www.actresearch.net.

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ACT Research Co.

ACT Research is the leader in commercial vehicle industry data, market analysis, and forecasting services for North America.