“While not as strong as November, utilization and logistics costs remained positive factors, with December freight volume slightly negative,” it said.
“The only input to the SCI more positive in December versus November was fuel costs. The feared impact of IMO 2020 on fuel costs has not yet materialized. Diesel prices at the beginning of February were the lowest in more than two years.”
IMO 2020 refers to the marine emissions standards introduced by the International Maritime Organization last month. The regulations will sharply slash emissions of sulfur.
FTR said it expects shipper conditions to remain slightly positive through 2020, but weaken further toward neutral later in the year.
“The coronavirus has muddled the 2020 picture a bit, by creating the potential for a surge of volumes and port congestion once the virus’ effects are resolved in China,” said Todd Tranausky, vice-president of rail and intermodal at FTR.
“But any potential issues from a surge are likely to be short lived because of the excess capacity available across freight modes as the year begins.”