The Journal of Commerce Truckload Capacity Index rose 1.6 points to 81.3 in the second quarter, its highest reading in a year, as freight demand increased.
The index had been flat at 79.7, its historic low, for the previous two quarters, indicating truckload capacity levels were 20.3 percent below their peak in 2006.
With the increase, capacity as measured by the index is down 19 percent from that peak. The index uses fleet capacity in the fourth quarter of 2006 as its base value.
The second quarter rise in the index coincides with strengthening freight demand and a survey indicating truckload carriers plan to increase capacity moderately.
The American Trucking Associations For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index hit a record high in June, rising 0.1 percentage points from May to a reading of 125.9.
Year-over-year, the ATA tonnage index was up 6.5 percent in May and 5.9 percent in June, thanks in part to robust auto sales and durable goods production, ATA said.
“Heavy freight, like autos and energy production, is growing faster than lighter freight, which is pushing truck tonnage up,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello.
That’s encouraging more carriers to replace aging equipment and slowly add to their fleets, according to a second quarter survey by Transport Capital Partners.
The survey found 65 percent of truckload carriers planned to increase capacity 1 to 5 percent over the next 12 months — a percentage consistent with prior surveys.
The uptick in the capacity index during the second quarter underscores those trends, said JOC Senior Editor William B. Cassidy, who created the index.
“This is still a very cautious increase, with only two-fifths of the carriers included in the index increasing capacity slightly from quarter to quarter,” Cassidy said.
Year-over-year, he noted, the index is still down 0.7 percentage points. The index dropped 14.1 points during the recession, from 2007 through 2009.
“Carriers will be cautious about adding capacity unless they can get a better return on investment, either through higher rates or increased productivity,” Cassidy said.