BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Trucking conditions in the U.S. dipped into negative territory in March, for the first time in several years.

The -1.18 rating reflected softening rates, and sluggish freight demand, according to FTR. Active truck utilization and the truckload rate outlook also softened in March, FTR reported.

The softening rate environment was primarily in the spot market, but FTR said contract rates are also turning slightly negative. It downgraded its loadings growth projections to just under 2%.

“The trucking industry has essentially returned to neutral conditions as deterioration in most market factors are offsetting continued solid, but not robust, freight demand,” said Avery Vise, vice-president of trucking for FTR. “We generally expect this balance to continue into 2020, but Trucking Conditions Index readings could turn positive or negative month to month based on relatively minor shifts in demand, utilization, rates, or costs.”