Trucking is on the upswing, according to a new report from an industry research firm.
ACT Research said two measures of the industry’s overall health have rapidly improved.
The firm’s volume index, which measures the amount of loads trucking companies have been hired to deliver, surged to 75 in October, nearly 20 points higher compared with the same reading last year.
The index is at its highest level since March 2011, ACT said Thursday.
ACT’s pricing index, which measures freight rates, also jumped to 75 in October, its highest level since April 2011, and more than 22 points higher than the same month a year ago. Prices are rising as freight demand increases, said Tim Denoyer, vice president and senior analyst for ACT Research.
The research firm based its results on surveys of 75 to 100 trucking fleets.
A lack of available drivers continues to plague the industry, motor carriers said in the survey. As the economy improves, truckers are pursuing new jobs in other industries.
“October demand was strong, rates are up, but still no drivers,” one survey respondent said. Another trucking executive responded that “hiring drivers is absolutely the most critical initiative for us in 2018.”
In other data, ACT said soaring trailer sales also demonstrate growth in the trucking industry.
The research firm said Thursday that trailer orders for October were up 28 percent from the prior month to 32,000 units. Orders are up 50 percent compared with the same month a year earlier. That’s an indication that motor carriers are adding capacity to meet the increased freight volume, ACT said.
“The industry order season is off to a solid start, with a surge in dry van orders providing most of the momentum last month,” said Frank Maly, director of commercial vehicle transportation analysis and research for ACT. “At this point last year, the industry was in a bit of a holding pattern with pre-election jitters keeping some fleets sidelined.”
A federal appeals court ruling regarding semi-truck trailers may also have boosted sales.
In late October, a federal appeals court granted a petition filed by the trailer manufacturers to temporarily halt new emissions standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency until further review by the agency.
The Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association, or TTMA, located in Gainesville, Va., argued in its petition filed late last year that the EPA had overstepped its statutory authority because trailers produce no emissions.
This ruling “likely alleviated some new year market uncertainty and could have helped finalize some fleet investment decisions as the month closed,” Maly said.
The latest round of greenhouse gas emissions standards would have required trailer manufacturers to abide by strict new design standards, starting in January.
Through the first 10 months of the year, the industry booked more than 226,000 net orders, up almost 45 percent from the same period a year ago.
“At October’s build rate, the current order board would take the industry through most of next year’s first quarter,” Maly said.