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Freight Carried by For-hire Transportation Increases for Third Straight Month

Posted on 2/8/2017 by Gwen Brown

The Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI), which is based on the amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry, rose 1.0 percent in December from November, rising for the third consecutive month, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS).

The December 2016 index level (124.7) was 31.7 percent above the April 2009 low during the most recent recession (Tables 1, 2, and 2A).

 

Fig1 

 

The level of freight shipments in December measured by the Freight TSI (124.7) was equal to the all-time high reached in July 2016 (Table 2A). BTS’ TSI records begin in 2000. See historical TSI data.

 

The November index was revised to 123.5 from 123.2 in last month’s release. Monthly numbers for August through October were revised up slightly and monthly numbers from January through June were revised down slightly.

 

The Freight TSI measures the month-to-month changes in for-hire freight shipments by mode of transportation in tons and ton-miles, which are combined into one index. The index measures the output of the for-hire freight transportation industry and consists of data from for-hire trucking, rail, inland waterways, pipelines and air freight. The TSI is seasonally-adjusted to remove regular seasons from month-to-month comparisons.

 

Analysis: The December Freight TSI grew by 1.0 percent from the previous month due to increases in trucking, pipeline, rail intermodal, and water, while air freight and rail carloads declined. The December increase was driven by economic growth. The Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production index rose by 0.8 percent in December, with growth in both manufacturing and utilities, even as mining production declined.  Employment and Personal Income both grew in December, though housing starts were off by 0.2 percent.

 

The 2.9 percent fourth quarter increase from the previous quarter took place as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth slowed to an annual rate of 1.9 percent from 3.5 percent in the third quarter, while Industrial Production  grew by 0.4 percent. The fourth quarter slowdown in GDP growth was preceded by a third quarter decline in Freight TSI and the rapid GDP growth in the third quarter was preceded by a strong increase in Freight TSI in the second quarter.

 

Trend: The 1.0 percent increase in December was the third consecutive monthly Freight TSI increase. These three months of increases, following two months of declines brought Freight TSI to its highest level ever, matching the record high level of 124.7 in July 2016. The December level was 2.9 percent above the level at the start of 2016.

 

The 2.9 percent fourth quarter increase followed a decrease of 1.1 percent in the previous quarter, for a net increase of 1.8 percent over the last six months. The fourth quarter increase was the largest increase in freight TSI since the fourth quarter of 2011. Freight TSI increased in two of the four quarters of 2016 for an annual increase of 2.9 percent, after declining in three of the four quarters of 2015, for an annual decline of 2.0 percent. The Freight TSI is now 1.8 percent above the level of two years ago at the beginning of 2015. The index remains high compared to earlier years, rising 31.7 percent since the low of 94.7 in April 2009. For additional historical data, go to TSI data.

 

Index highs and lows: For-hire freight shipments in December 2016 (124.7) were 31.7 percent higher than the low in April 2009 during the recession (94.7). The December 2016 level was equal to the all-time high reached in July 2016.

 

Year to date: For-hire freight shipments measured by the index were up 2.9 percent in December compared to the end of 2015 (Table 3).

 

Long-term trend: For-hire freight shipments are up 8.2 percent in the five years from December 2011 and are up 12.6 percent in the 10 years from December 2006 (Table 5). 

 

Same month of previous year: December 2016 for-hire freight shipments were up 2.9 percent from December 2015 (Tables 4, 5).

 

4th quarter changes: The Freight TSI rose 2.9 percent in the fourth quarter, the largest quarterly increase since a 3.5 percent rise in the fourth quarter of 2011 (Table 10).  

 

The TSI uses seasonally adjusted data on for-hire freight and passenger transportation services to create three indexes measuring monthly changes in transportation services output from the base year of 2000. The three indexes are for-hire freight shipments, passenger travel, and a combined measure that merges freight and passenger indexes. See Seasonally-Adjusted Transportation Data for numbers for individual modes. TSI includes data from 2000 to the present. Release of the December 2016 index is scheduled for March 8.

 

Passenger Index: The TSI for passengers fell 0.1 percent in December from its November level (Table 6). The Passenger TSI December 2016 level of 124.0 was 0.3 percent below the December 2015 level (Table 7). The index is up 7.2 percent in five years and up 9.2 percent in 10 years (Table 5). The passenger TSI measures the month-to-month changes in travel that involves the services of the for-hire passenger transportation sector. The seasonally adjusted index consists of data from air, local transit and intercity rail.

 

Combined Index: The combined freight and passenger TSI rose 0.6 percent in December from its November level (Table 8). The combined TSI December 2016 level of 124.6 was 1.9 percent above the December 2015 level (Table 9). The combined index is up 7.9 percent in five years and up 11.4 percent in 10 years (Table 5). The combined TSI merges the freight and passenger indexes into a single index.

 

Revisions: Monthly data has changed from previous releases due to the use of concurrent seasonal analysis, which results in seasonal analysis factors changing as each month’s data are added.    

 

BTS research has shown a clear relationship between economic cycles and the Freight and Passenger Transportation Services Indexes. See a study of this relationship using smoothed and detrended TSI data. Researchers who wish to compare TSI over time with other economic indicators, can use the FRED database, which includes freight, passenger  and combined TSI, and which makes it possible to easily graph TSI alongside the other series in that database. See TSI data on FRED.   

 

For a webinar on the TSI, see Past Webinars. For a video explanation of the TSI, see Overview of the Transportation Services Index. A BTS report explaining the TSI, Transportation Services Index and the Economy, is available for download.

  

Table 1: Freight, Passenger and Combined Transportation Services Indexes since June 2016

Percent Change from Previous Month

(Seasonally Adjusted, Monthly Average of 2000 = 100)

 

Freight

Passenger

Combined

Index

Pct. Change

Index

Pct. Change

Index

Pct. Change

June

122.5

0.7

125.5

1.0

123.6

0.8

July

124.7

1.8

124.0

-1.2

124.6

0.8

August

122.5

-1.8

123.1

-0.7

122.7

-1.5

September

121.2

-1.1

124.8

1.4

122.4

-0.2

October

122.9

1.4

122.5

-1.8

122.8

0.3

November

123.5

0.5

124.1

1.3

123.8

0.8

December

124.7

1.0

124.0

-0.1

124.6

0.6

 

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

NOTE: Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding. 

 

 

Table 1A: Annual High and Low Points in Freight Transportation Services Index, 2009-2016

Year 

Month

Peak

Month

Bottom

2009

June

101.5

April

94.7

2012

June

113.5

April

110.3

2013

November

119.1

January

114.1

2014

December

123.7

January

115.8

2015

October

123.0

November

120.9

2016 (thru December)

July

124.7

June

119.5

 

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

 

 

Table 2: Freight Transportation Services Index Monthly Changes, 2013-2016

Percent change from previous month

 

2013

2014

2015

2016

 

% Change

% Change

% Change

% Change

January

1.4

-1.9

-0.8

0.7

February

1.2

1.6

-1.3

-1.1

March

-0.1

1.3

0.8

-1.0

April

-0.8

0.6

-0.5

1.7

May

1.2

0.7

0.7

0.2

June

0.3

-0.9

-0.5

0.7

July

-0.2

0.7

0.7

1.8

August

0.5

0.7

0.2

-1.8

September

0.1

0.3

-0.3

-1.1

October

-0.2

0.7

0.4

1.4

November

2.2

0.9

-1.7

0.5

December

-0.8

0.2

0.2

1.0

 

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

 

 

Table 2A: Freight Transportation Services Index by Month, 2013-2016

 

2013

2014

2015

2016

January

114.1

115.8

122.7

122.1

February

115.5

117.6

121.1

120.7

March

115.4

119.1

122.1

119.5

April

114.5

119.8

121.5

121.5

May

115.9

120.6

122.3

121.7

June

116.2

119.5

121.7

122.5

July

116.0

120.3

122.6

124.7

August

116.6

121.1

122.9

122.5

September

116.7

121.5

122.5

121.2

October

116.5

122.4

123.0

122.9

November

119.1

123.5

120.9

123.5

December

118.1

123.7

121.2

124.7

 

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

 

 

Table 3: Freight, Passenger and Combined Transportation Services Indexes Year-to-Date Change, 2007-2016

Percent change to December from December of the previous year

Year

Freight

Passenger

Combined

2007

0.1

2.4

0.7

2008

-9.5

-5.2

-8.2

2009

1.2

0.1

0.8

2010

7.3

2.5

5.8

2011

5.9

2.2

4.8

 

 

 

 

2012

-2.4

0.3

-1.6

2013

5.0

1.6

4.0

2014

4.7

2.5

4.1

2015

-2.0

3.0

-0.5

2016

2.9

-0.3

1.9

 

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

 

 

Table 4: Freight Transportation Services Index from Year-to-Year

Percent Change in the December Freight TSI

(Monthly average of 2000 = 100)

 

December Freight TSI

Percent change from same month previous year

2007

110.8

0.1

2008

100.3

-9.5

2009

101.5

1.2

2010

108.9

7.3

2011

115.3

5.9

2012

112.5

-2.4

2013

118.1

5.0

2014

123.7

4.7

2015

121.2

-2.0

2016

124.7

2.9

 

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

NOTE: Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

 

 

Table 5: Transportation Services Indexes from Previous Years

Percent Change to 2016 (December to December)

Since December

. . .

Duration in years

Freight TSI Percent change to December 2016

Passenger TSI Percent change to December 2016

Combined TSI Percent change to December 2016

2015

1

2.9

-0.3

1.9

2014

2

0.8

2.6

1.4

2013

3

5.6

5.3

5.5

2012

4

10.8

6.9

9.7

2011

5

8.2

7.2

7.9

2010

6

14.5

9.5

13.1

2009

7

22.9

12.3

19.6

2008

8

24.3

12.4

20.5

2007

9

12.5

6.6

10.7

2006

10

12.6

9.2

11.4

                                                                                                                                                           

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

 

 

Table 6: Passenger Transportation Services Index Monthly Changes, 2013-2016

Percent change from previous month

 

2013

2014

2015

2016

 

% Change

% Change

% Change

% Change

January

0.9

0.0

-0.7

-0.9

February

-0.3

-0.3

-1.4

0.5

March

-0.4

2.1

2.5

-1.3

April

0.6

-0.1

0.2

1.3

May

-0.1

0.5

0.2

0.2

June

0.7

-0.7

0.4

1.0

July

-0.9

0.1

2.0

-1.2

August

0.8

0.6

-1.5

-0.7

September

-0.1

-0.2

0.2

1.4

October

0.3

0.5

1.7

-1.8

November

0.8

-0.9

-1.4

1.3

December

-0.7

1.0

1.0

-0.1

 

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

 

 

Table 7: Passenger Transportation Services Index from Year-to-Year

Percent change in the December Passenger TSI

(Monthly average of 2000 = 100)

 

December Passenger TSI

Percent change from same month previous year

2007

116.3

2.4

2008

110.3

-5.2

2009

110.4

0.1

2010

113.2

2.5

2011

115.7

2.2

2012

116.0

0.3

2013

117.8

1.6

2014

120.8

2.5

2015

124.4

3.0

2016

124.0

-0.3

 

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

NOTE: Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

 

 

Table 8: Combined Transportation Services Index Monthly Changes, 2013-2016

Percent change from previous month

 

2013

2014

2015

2016

 

% Change

% Change

% Change

% Change

January

1.3

-1.4

-0.8

0.2

February

0.8

0.9

-1.2

-0.7

March

-0.3

1.5

1.2

-1.1

April

-0.3

0.3

-0.2

1.6

May

0.9

0.7

0.5

0.2

June

0.3

-0.8

-0.2

0.8

July

-0.4

0.5

1.1

0.8

August

0.6

0.7

-0.3

-1.5

September

0.1

0.1

-0.2

-0.2

October

-0.1

0.7

0.8

0.3

November

1.8

0.4

-1.6

0.8

December

-0.8

0.4

0.5

0.6

 

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

 

 

Table 9: Combined Transportation Services Index from Year-to-Year

Percent change in the December Combined TSI

(Monthly average of 2000 = 100)

 

December Combined TSI

Percent change from same month previous year

2007

112.6

0.7

2008

103.4

-8.2

2009

104.2

0.8

2010

110.2

5.8

2011

115.5

4.8

2012

113.6

-1.6

2013

118.1

4.0

2014

122.9

4.1

2015

122.3

-0.5

2016

124.6

1.9

 

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

NOTE: Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

 

 

Table 10: Freight Transportation Services Index Change by Quarter, 2007-2016

Percent change from the last month of the previous quarter

Year

1st Quarter (Jan-Mar)

% Growth

2nd Quarter (Apr-Jun)

% Growth

3rd Quarter (Jul-Sep)

% Growth

4th Quarter (Oct-Dec)

% Growth

 

 

2007

1.0

-1.9

-0.3

1.3

 

2008

-0.9

0.1

-2.4

-6.5

 

2009

-4.4

0.2

3.4

2.1

 

2010

3.8

1.0

0.7

1.6

 

2011

1.7

-0.5

1.0

3.5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2012

-3.2

1.7

-1.3

0.4

 

2013

2.6

0.7

0.4

1.2

 

2014

0.8

0.3

1.7

1.8

 

2015

-1.3

-0.3

0.7

-1.1

 

2016

-1.4

2.5

-1.1

2.9

 

 

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

 

 

Table 11: Passenger Transportation Services Index Change by Quarter, 2007-2016

Percent change from the last month of the previous quarter

Year

1st Quarter (Jan-Mar)

% Growth

2nd Quarter (Apr-Jun)

% Growth

3rd Quarter (Jul-Sep)

% Growth

4th Quarter (Oct-Dec)

% Growth

 

 

2007

2.6

0.2

0.8

-1.1

 

2008

0.4

-0.3

-3.7

-1.6

 

2009

-1.6

0.1

0.9

0.7

 

2010

0.3

1.1

1.2

0.0

 

2011

0.3

0.6

0.8

0.5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2012

0.3

-0.7

0.5

0.2

 

2013

0.3

1.2

-0.3

0.3

 

2014

1.8

-0.3

0.4

0.6

 

2015

0.4

0.7

0.6

1.2

 

2016

-1.7

2.6

-0.6

-0.6

 

 

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

 

 

Table 12: Combined Transportation Services Index Change by Quarter, 2007-2016

Percent change from the last month of the previous quarter

Year

1st Quarter (Jan-Mar)

% Growth

2nd Quarter (Apr-Jun)

% Growth

3rd Quarter (Jul-Sep)

% Growth

4th Quarter (Oct-Dec)

% Growth

 

 

2007

1.4

-1.2

0.0

0.5

 

2008

-0.4

-0.1

-2.8

-5.1

 

2009

-3.6

0.1

2.7

1.7

 

2010

2.8

0.9

0.9

1.0

 

2011

1.4

-0.2

1.0

2.6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2012

-2.2

1.0

-0.8

0.4

 

2013

1.8

0.9

0.3

0.9

 

2014

1.1

0.2

1.3

1.5

 

2015

-0.8

0.0

0.7

-0.3

 

2016

-1.6

2.7

-1.0

1.8

 

 

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

 

Brief Explanation of the TSI

           

The Transportation Services Index (TSI) is a measure of the month-to-month changes in the output of services provided by the for-hire transportation industries. The freight index measure changes in freight shipments while the passenger index measures changes in passenger travel.

 

The TSI tells us how the output of transportation services has increased or decreased from month to month. The index can be examined together with other economic indicators to produce a better understanding of the current and future course of the economy.   The movement of the index over time can be compared with other economic measures to understand the relationship of changes in transportation output to changes in Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

 

           

            The freight transportation index consists of:

For-hire trucking,

Railroad freight services (including rail based intermodal shipments such as containers on flat cars),

Inland waterways transportation,

Pipeline transportation (including principally petroleum and petroleum products and natural gas), and

Air freight.

 

The index does not include international or coastal waterborne movements, private trucking, courier services, or the US Postal Service.

 

            The passenger transportation index consists of:

Local transit,

Intercity passenger rail, and

Passenger air transportation.

 

The index does not include intercity bus, sightseeing services, ferry services, taxi service, private automobile usage, or bicycling and other non-motorized transportation.

 

The TSI includes only domestic "for-hire" freight and passenger transportation. For-hire transportation consists of freight or passenger transport services provided by a firm to external customers for a fee. The TSI does not include taxi services, paid ride services in personal motor vehicles (e.g., Uber, Lyft, etc.), intercity bus services, in-house transportation (vehicles owned and operated by private firms for their own use), or noncommercial passenger travel (e.g., trips in the household car).