Transportation Services Index

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April 2017 Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI)

Release Number: 
BTS 28-17
Date: 
Wednesday, June 14, 2017

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The Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI), which is based on the amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry, fell 0.6 percent in April from March, falling for the second consecutive month after reaching an all-time high in February, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS). The April 2017 index level (122.8) was 29.7 percent above the April 2009 low during the most recent recession (Tables 1, 2, and 2A).

(Seasonally Adjusted, Monthly Average of 2000 = 100)
View Table Data
MonthFreight TSI
Apr-12111.7
May-12112.8
Jun-12113.6
Jul-12113.2
Aug-12112.6
Sep-12112.0
Oct-12110.3
Nov-12112.1
Dec-12112.3
Jan-13114.1
Feb-13115.6
Mar-13115.6
Apr-13114.6
May-13116.0
Jun-13116.3
Jul-13116.0
Aug-13116.6
Sep-13116.6
Oct-13116.5
Nov-13119.0
Dec-13117.8
Jan-14115.7
Feb-14117.7
Mar-14119.4
Apr-14120.0
May-14120.7
Jun-14119.6
Jul-14120.5
Aug-14121.1
Sep-14121.3
Oct-14122.2
Nov-14123.4
Dec-14123.3
Jan-15122.6
Feb-15121.2
Mar-15122.7
Apr-15121.7
May-15122.4
Jun-15121.8
Jul-15122.7
Aug-15122.8
Sep-15122.3
Oct-15122.9
Nov-15120.8
Dec-15120.9
Jan-16122.0
Feb-16120.8
Mar-16120.2
Apr-16121.8
May-16121.7
Jun-16122.6
Jul-16125.1
Aug-16122.4
Sep-16120.9
Oct-16122.7
Nov-16123.4
Dec-16124.6
Jan-17124.0
Feb-17125.7
Mar-17123.5
Apr-17122.8
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

The level of for-hire freight shipments in April measured by the Freight TSI (122.8) was 2.3 percent below the all-time high level of 125.7 in February 2017 (Table 2A). BTS’ TSI records begin in 2000. See historical TSI data.

The March index was revised to 123.5 from 124.0 in last month’s release. February was 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 April decrease in the Freight TSI was broad based, with declines in all freight transportation modes except air freight and trucking. The decrease took place despite growth in other economic indicators in April. The Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production index grew by 1 percent with growth in manufacturing, mining, and utilities.  Employment and Personal Income both grew in April. However, Housing Starts declined, while the Institute for Supply Management’s Purchasing Managers’ Index showed positive but slowing growth.

Trend: The Freight TSI declined in April for the second month in a row, decreasing by 0.6 percent, for a total decline over two months of 2.3 percent from the all-time high in February 2017.  After a period of 32 months beginning in April 2014 and continuing to November 2016 when the index, with only one exception, fluctuated between 119.6 and 123.4, the Freight TSI then reached or exceeded 124.0 for three months in succession but has now fallen below 123.6 for two months. The two-month decline represents the third time the index has decreased for two month in succession since the beginning of 2015, though it represents a more modest decrease than that of August/September 2016. The April index was 29.7 percent above the April 2009 low during the most recent recession. For additional historical data, go to TSI data.

Index highs and lows: For-hire freight shipments in April 2017 (122.8) were 29.7 percent higher than the low in April 2009 during the recession (94.7). The April 2017 level was 2.3 percent below the historic peak reached in February 2017 (125.7) (Table 1A).

Year to date: For-hire freight shipments measured by the index were down 1.4 percent in April compared to the end of 2016 (Table 3).

Long-term trend: For-hire freight shipments are up 9.9 percent in the five years from April 2012 and are up 11.3 percent in the 10 years from the pre-recession level of April 2007 (Table 5). 

Same month of previous year: April 2017 for-hire freight shipments were up 0.8 percent from April 2016 (Tables 4, 5).

The TSI has three seasonally-adjusted indexes that measure changes from the monthly average of the base year of 2000. The three indexes are freight shipments, passenger travel and a combined measure that merges the 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 May 2017 index is scheduled for July 12.

Passenger Index: The TSI for passengers rose 0.3 percent in April from its March level (Table 6). The Passenger TSI April 2017 level of 124.6 was 0.5 percent above the April 2016 level (Table 7). The index is up 7.8 percent in five years and up 7.4 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 fell 0.2 percent in April from its March level (Table 8). The combined TSI April 2017 level of 123.5 was 0.8 percent above the April 2016 level (Table 9). The combined index is up 9.3 percent in five years and up 10.2 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.

Percent Change from Previous Month, (Seasonally Adjusted, Monthly Average of 2000 = 100)
View Table Data
FreightPassengerCombined
IndexPct. Change IndexPct. Change IndexPct. Change
October122.71.5123.5-1.1123.00.7
November123.40.6124.50.8123.80.7
December124.61.0124.80.2124.70.7
January124.0-0.5125.10.2124.4-0.2
February125.71.4123.3-1.4125.00.5
March123.5-1.8124.20.7123.8-1.0
April122.8-0.6124.60.3123.5-0.2
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

View Table Data
YearMonthPeakMonthBottom
2009December101.6April94.7
2013November119.0January114.1
2014November123.4January115.7
2015October122.9November120.8
2016July125.1March120.2
2017(thru April)February125.7April122.8
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from previous month
View Table Data
2014201520162017
% Change% Change% Change% Change
January-1.8-0.60.9-0.5
February1.7-1.1-1.01.4
March1.41.2-0.5-1.8
April0.5-0.81.3-0.6
May0.60.6-0.1
June-0.9-0.50.7
July0.80.72.0
August0.50.1-2.2
September0.2-0.4-1.2
October0.70.51.5
November1.0-1.70.6
December-0.10.11.0
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

View Table Data
2014201520162017
January115.7122.6122.0124.0
February117.7121.2120.8125.7
March119.4122.7120.2123.5
April120.0121.7121.8122.8
May120.7122.4121.7
June119.6121.8122.6
July120.5122.7125.1
August121.1122.8122.4
September121.3122.3120.9
October122.2122.9122.7
November123.4120.8123.4
December123.3120.9124.6
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change to April from December of the previous year
View Table Data
YearFreightPassengerCombined
20080.60.50.5
2009-5.70.0-4.0
20104.6-0.13.3
20111.40.61.2
2012-3.00.0-2.1
20132.00.91.8
20141.91.71.8
2015-1.30.7-0.7
20160.7-0.20.4
2017-1.4-0.2-1.0
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the April Freight TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
View Table Data
April Freight TSIPercent change from same month previous year
2008111.41.0
200994.7-15.0
2010106.312.2
2011110.33.8
2012111.71.3
2013114.62.6
2014120.04.7
2015121.71.4
2016121.80.1
2017122.80.8
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent Change to 2017 (April to April)
View Table Data
Since April . . .Duration in yearsFreight TSI Percent change to April 2017Passenger TSI Percent change to April 2017Combined TSI Percent change to April 2017
201610.80.50.8
201520.92.61.5
201432.34.02.9
201347.26.67.0
201259.97.89.3
2011611.39.510.9
2010715.513.014.8
2009829.712.924.4
2008910.26.69.1
20071011.37.410.2
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from previous month
View Table Data
2014201520162017
% Change% Change% Change% Change
January0.0-0.6-0.60.2
February0.1-0.90.9-1.4
March1.61.9-1.80.7
April0.00.31.50.3
May0.40.20.2
June-0.60.51.3
July0.12.0-0.8
August0.4-1.9-1.7
September-0.20.31.8
October0.31.4-1.1
November-0.6-0.90.8
December0.80.60.2
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the April Passenger TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
View Table Data
April Passenger TSIPercent change from same month previous year
2008116.90.8
2009110.4-5.6
2010110.3-0.1
2011113.83.2
2012115.61.6
2013116.91.1
2014119.82.5
2015121.51.4
2016124.02.1
2017124.60.5
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from previous month
View Table Data
2014201520162017
% Change% Change% Change% Change
January-1.3-0.70.4-0.2
February1.2-1.0-0.30.5
March1.51.4-1.0-1.0
April0.3-0.51.3-0.2
May0.60.40.1
June-0.9-0.20.9
July0.61.11.1
August0.5-0.5-2.0
September0.1-0.2-0.3
October0.60.80.7
November0.5-1.50.7
December0.20.20.7
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the April Combined TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
View Table Data
April Combined TSIPercent change from same month previous year
2008113.21.0
200999.3-12.3
2010107.68.4
2011111.43.5
2012113.01.4
2013115.42.1
2014120.04.0
2015121.71.4
2016122.50.7
2017123.50.8
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

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).