Transportation Services Index

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August 2017 Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI)

Release Number: 
BTS 49-17
Date: 
Thursday, October 12, 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, reached an all-time monthly high in August, 1.5 percent higher than the previous highest level reached one month earlier in July, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS). The August 2017 index level (130.7) was 38.0 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
Aug-12112.6
Sep-12112.0
Oct-12110.2
Nov-12112.1
Dec-12112.2
Jan-13114.2
Feb-13115.7
Mar-13115.7
Apr-13114.7
May-13115.8
Jun-13116.3
Jul-13115.8
Aug-13116.6
Sep-13116.6
Oct-13116.4
Nov-13119.0
Dec-13117.9
Jan-14115.7
Feb-14117.8
Mar-14119.4
Apr-14120.1
May-14120.6
Jun-14119.6
Jul-14120.3
Aug-14121.2
Sep-14121.3
Oct-14122.2
Nov-14123.4
Dec-14123.1
Jan-15122.7
Feb-15121.6
Mar-15123.0
Apr-15121.9
May-15122.4
Jun-15121.8
Jul-15122.5
Aug-15122.9
Sep-15122.3
Oct-15123.0
Nov-15120.9
Dec-15120.9
Jan-16122.4
Feb-16121.3
Mar-16120.5
Apr-16122.1
May-16122.0
Jun-16122.7
Jul-16124.9
Aug-16122.5
Sep-16121.1
Oct-16122.9
Nov-16123.6
Dec-16124.6
Jan-17124.3
Feb-17126.1
Mar-17124.4
Apr-17124.5
May-17127.4
Jun-17126.2
Jul-17128.8
Aug-17130.7
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

The level of for-hire freight shipments in August measured by the Freight TSI (130.7) reached its all-time high with a 1.5 percent gain over the previous high reached in July.  The index rose 6.7 percent from August 2016, the largest year-over-year gain in almost seven years since December 2010 (Table 2A). BTS’ TSI records begin in 2000. See historical TSI data.

The freight index in August exceeded the level of 130 for the first time, showing a 30 percent rise over the baseline in the year 2000. The index reached 110, a 10 percent increase over the baseline, in March 2004 and it reached 120, a 20 percent gain over the baseline, in April 2014. See historical TSI data.

The July index was revised to 128.8 from 128.2 in last month’s release. Monthly numbers for April and May were revised up slightly and June 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 August increase in the Freight TSI was driven by a large gain in trucking and smaller gains in air freight and rail intermodal. Water and pipeline freight decreased while rail carloads were stable. The increase took place against a background of growth in several other indicators in August. Employment, Personal Income and housing starts all increased. The Institute for Supply Management’s Purchasing Managers’ Index showed positive and accelerating growth. However, the Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production index declined by 0.9 percent, with decreases in all sectors

Trend: The Freight TSI’s new all-time high of 130.7 in August was 1.5 percent above the all-time high set in the previous month and 4.6 percent above the level of July 2016, the highest level prior to 2017. August was the second all-time high in a row, and the third in four months. In each of the last two months, the Freight TSI exceeded the previous high by at least 1.1 percent. The Freight TSI increase of 1.5 percent in August immediately followed another large increase in July (2.1 percent) - there have been large increases in three of the last four months. The increase in May was 2.3 percent for a total increase of 5.0 in the four months since April 2017. The index was higher in each of the last four months from May 2017 to August 2017 than in any month prior to May. All five of Freight TSI’s all-time highest months have been in 2017. Each of these months exceeded the previous high (124.9 in July 2016) by at least 1.0 percent. The August index was 38.0 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 August 2017 (130.7) were 38.0 percent higher than the low in April 2009 during the recession (94.7). The August 2017 level reached its all-time high (Table 1A).

Year to date: For-hire freight shipments measured by the index were up 4.9 percent in August compared to the end of 2016 (Table 3).

Long-term trend: For-hire freight shipments are up 16.1 percent in the five years from August 2012 and are up 19.5 percent in the 10 years from August 2007 (Table 5). 

Same month of previous year: August 2017 for-hire freight shipments were up 6.7 percent from August 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 September 2017 index is scheduled for Nov. 8.

Passenger Index: The TSI for passengers fell 0.2 percent in August from its July level (Table 6).  The Passenger TSI August 2017 level of 126.8 was 3.0 percent above the August 2016 level (Table 7). The index is up 9.7 percent in five years and up 7.9 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 0.9 percent in August from its July level (Table 8). The combined TSI August 2017 level of 129.5 was 5.5 percent above the August 2016 level (Table 9). The combined index is up 14.1 percent in five years and up 15.6 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
February126.11.4123.5-1.4125.40.6
March124.4-1.3124.91.1124.7-0.6
April124.50.1126.61.4125.20.4
May127.42.3126.4-0.2127.21.6
June126.2-0.9127.40.8126.7-0.4
July128.82.1127.0-0.3128.41.3
August130.71.5126.8-0.2129.50.9
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

View Table Data
YearMonthPeakMonthBottom
2009December101.6April94.7
2013November119.0January114.2
2014November123.4February115.7
2015March123.0November120.9
2016July124.9March120.5
2017(thru August)August130.7January124.3
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from previous month
View Table Data
2014201520162017
% Change% Change% Change% Change
January-1.9-0.31.2-0.2
February1.8-0.9-0.91.4
March1.41.2-0.7-1.3
April0.6-0.91.30.1
May0.40.4-0.12.3
June-0.8-0.50.6-0.9
July0.60.61.82.1
August0.70.3-1.91.5
September0.1-0.5-1.1
October0.70.61.5
November1.0-1.70.6
December-0.20.00.8
Source: 

 Bureau of Transportation Statistics

View Table Data
2014201520162017
January115.7122.7122.4124.3
February117.8121.6121.3126.1
March119.4123.0120.5124.4
April120.1121.9122.1124.5
May120.6122.4122.0127.4
June119.6121.8122.7126.2
July120.3122.5124.9128.8
August121.2122.9122.5130.7
September121.3122.3121.1
October122.2123.0122.9
November123.4120.9123.6
December123.1120.9124.6
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change to August from December of the previous year
View Table Data
YearFreightPassengerCombined
2008-1.4-0.5-1.2
2009-1.1-0.6-1.0
20105.11.54.1
20111.7-1.10.9
2012-2.20.0-1.6
20133.91.43.1
20142.82.22.6
2015-0.21.70.4
20161.3-1.00.6
20174.91.53.8
Source: 

 Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the August Freight TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
View Table Data
August Freight TSIPercent change from same month previous year
2008109.1-0.3
200999.3-9.0
2010106.87.6
2011110.63.6
2012112.61.8
2013116.63.6
2014121.23.9
2015122.91.4
2016122.5-0.3
2017130.76.7
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent Change to 2017 (August to August)
View Table Data
Since August . . .Duration in yearsFreight TSI Percent change to August 2017Passenger TSI Percent change to August 2017Combined TSI Percent change to August 2017
201616.73.05.5
201526.33.35.4
201437.85.37.0
2013412.17.910.8
2012516.19.714.1
2011618.213.316.6
2010722.413.119.4
2009831.615.626.5
2008919.89.616.5
20071019.57.915.6
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from previous month
View Table Data
2014201520162017
% Change% Change% Change% Change
January0.0-0.6-0.70.3
February0.2-0.91.0-1.4
March1.61.9-1.81.1
April-0.20.21.21.4
May0.60.20.4-0.2
June-0.80.20.90.8
July0.32.2-0.6-0.3
August0.6-1.6-1.3-0.2
September-0.30.21.5
October0.21.3-1.2
November-0.4-0.80.9
December0.80.60.2
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the August Passenger TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
View Table Data
August Passenger TSIPercent change from same month previous year
2008115.7-1.5
2009109.7-5.2
2010112.12.2
2011111.9-0.2
2012115.63.3
2013117.51.6
2014120.42.5
2015122.71.9
2016123.10.3
2017126.83.0
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-1.3-0.40.7-0.1
February1.3-0.9-0.30.6
March1.41.5-1.0-0.6
April0.3-0.71.30.4
May0.50.40.01.6
June-0.8-0.30.7-0.4
July0.51.11.11.3
August0.7-0.3-1.80.9
September0.0-0.2-0.2
October0.60.70.7
November0.5-1.40.6
December0.10.20.6
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the August Combined TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
View Table Data
August Combined TSIPercent change from same month previous year
2008111.2-0.7
2009102.4-7.9
2010108.56.0
2011111.12.4
2012113.52.2
2013116.93.0
2014121.03.5
2015122.91.6
2016122.7-0.2
2017129.55.5
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).