Transportation Services Index

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April 2018 Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI)

Release Number: 
BTS 28-18

Date: Wednesday, June 13, 2018

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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 0.1 percent in April from March, falling after reaching an all-time high in March. The April 2018 index level (134.3) was 41.7 percent above the April 2009 low during the most recent recession (Tables 1, 2, and 2A).

(Seasonally Adjusted, Monthly Average of 2000 = 100)
MonthFreight TSI
Apr-13114.7
May-13115.9
Jun-13116.4
Jul-13115.9
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

The level of for-hire freight shipments in April measured by the Freight TSI (134.3) was 0.1 percent below the all-time high level of 134.5 in March 2018 (Table 2A). BTS’ TSI records begin in 2000. See historical TSI data.

The March index was revised to 134.5 from 130.8 in last month’s release and remains an all-time high.  Monthly numbers for January and February were revised up 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 driven by decreases in air freight and trucking, while water and pipeline increased and rail carloads were stable. The TSI increase took place against a background of mostly positive results for other indicators. The Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production index rose by 0.7 percent in April, with increases in all major industry groups. Personal income grew, but housing starts declined, while the Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing index fell to 57.3, indicating decelerating growth.

Trend: The 0.1 percent decline in April, from the Freight TSI’s record high level of 134.5 in March, left it 1.4 percent above its level of February 2018, and 1.0 percent above its level of December 2017, the highest level it had reached before 2018.  The April index was 41.7 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 2018 (134.3) were 41.7 percent higher than the low in April 2009 during the recession (94.8). The April 2018 level was 0.1 percent below the historic peak reached in March 2018 (134.5) (Table 1A).

Year to date: For-hire freight shipments measured by the index were up 1.0 percent in April compared to the end of 2017 (Table 3).

Long-term trend: For-hire freight shipments are up 17.1 percent in the five years from April 2013 and are up 20.4 percent in the 10 years from April 2008 (Table 5). 

Same month of previous year: April 2018 for-hire freight shipments were up 7.7 percent from April 2017 (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 2018 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 2018 level of 128.7 was 1.5 percent above the April 2017 level (Table 7). The index is up 10.0 percent in five years and up 10.1 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 0.1 percent in April from its March level (Table 8). The combined TSI April 2018 level of 132.5 was 5.6 percent above the April 2017 level (Table 9). The combined index is up 14.7 percent in five years and up 16.9 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

Percent Change from Previous Month, (Seasonally Adjusted, Monthly Average of 2000 = 100)
FreightPassengerCombined
IndexPct. Change IndexPct. Change IndexPct. Change
October130.61.6127.43.0129.62.0
November131.80.9128.20.6130.60.8
December133.00.9127.3-0.7131.20.5
January130.3-2.0126.4-0.7129.1-1.6
February132.51.7128.01.3131.01.5
March134.51.5128.30.2132.41.1
April134.3-0.1128.70.3132.50.1
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

YearMonthPeakMonthBottom
2009December101.6April94.8
2014November123.4May115.9
2015March123.0December120.7
2016July125.0December120.7
2017December133.0January124.5
2018(thru April)March134.5January130.3
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from previous month
2015201620172018
% Change% Change% Change% Change
January0.01.70.1-2.0
February-0.9-1.01.31.7
March1.0-0.7-1.31.5
April-0.81.50.2-0.1
May0.3-0.22.2
June-0.30.8-0.7
July0.41.51.7
August0.2-1.80.2
September-0.1-0.9-0.4
October0.21.11.6
November-1.60.70.9
December-0.20.50.9
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

2015201620172018
January122.9122.8124.5130.3
February121.8121.6126.1132.5
March123.0120.7124.5134.5
April122.0122.5124.7134.3
May122.4122.2127.5
June122.0123.2126.6
July122.5125.0128.8
August122.8122.7129.1
September122.7121.6128.6
October123.0122.9130.6
November121.0123.8131.8
December120.7124.4133.0
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change to April from December of the previous year
YearFreightPassengerCombined
2009-5.60.0-3.9
20104.8-0.13.4
20111.50.61.3
2012-2.80.0-2.0
20132.20.91.9
20142.11.72.0
2015-0.70.6-0.3
20161.5-0.30.9
20170.21.10.6
20181.01.11.0
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the April Freight TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
April Freight TSIPercent change from same month previous year
200994.8-15.0
2010106.512.3
2011110.43.7
2012111.81.3
2013114.72.6
2014120.14.7
2015122.01.6
2016122.50.4
2017124.71.8
2018134.37.7
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent Change to 2018 (April to April)
Since April . . .Duration in yearsFreight TSI Percent change to April 2018Passenger TSI Percent change to April 2018Combined TSI Percent change to April 2018
201717.71.55.6
201629.63.77.6
2015310.16.08.7
2014411.87.510.4
2013517.110.014.7
2012620.111.317.3
2011721.613.118.8
2010826.116.723.0
2009941.716.633.3
20081020.410.116.9
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from previous month
2015201620172018
% Change% Change% Change% Change
January-0.5-0.60.4-0.7
February-0.61.4-1.11.3
March1.5-2.20.80.2
April0.21.21.00.3
May0.20.3-0.2
June0.20.80.7
July2.2-0.6-0.1
August-1.4-1.1-0.5
September0.21.6-2.4
October1.2-1.43.0
November-0.81.00.6
December0.80.4-0.7
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the April Passenger TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
April Passenger TSIPercent change from same month previous year
2009110.4-5.6
2010110.3-0.1
2011113.83.2
2012115.61.6
2013117.01.2
2014119.72.3
2015121.41.4
2016124.12.2
2017126.82.2
2018128.71.5
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from previous month
2015201620172018
% Change% Change% Change% Change
January-0.21.00.2-1.6
February-0.8-0.20.51.5
March1.2-1.2-0.61.1
April-0.51.40.50.1
May0.3-0.11.4
June-0.20.8-0.2
July1.10.81.1
August-0.3-1.60.0
September0.00.0-1.1
October0.60.22.0
November-1.40.70.8
December0.10.50.5
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the April Combined TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
April Combined TSIPercent change from same month previous year
200999.4-12.3
2010107.78.4
2011111.53.5
2012113.01.3
2013115.52.2
2014120.03.9
2015121.91.6
2016123.11.0
2017125.51.9
2018132.55.6
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).