Transportation Services Index

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August 2018 Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI)

Release Number: 
BTS 47-18
Date: Thursday, October 11, 2018 

The Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI), which is based on the amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry, rose 0.1 percent in August from July, rising after a one month decline. The August 2018 index level (135.3) was 42.7 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
Aug-13116.6
Sep-13116.6
Oct-13116.5
Nov-13119.0
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

The August Freight TSI (135.3) was the third highest index level on record but was 0.7 percent below the all-time high level of 136.2 in June 2018 (Table 2A). BTS’ TSI records begin in 2000. See historical TSI data.

The July index was revised to 135.2 from 135.1 in last month’s release but remains below the June index. Monthly numbers for May and June were revised down slightly.

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS) 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 Freight TSI increase of 0.1 percent was driven by increases in trucking, water, and air. Pipeline and rail intermodal decreased and rail carloads remained stable. The TSI increase took place against a background of gains in other indicators.  The Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production index increased by 0.4 percent in July, with gains in all sectors. Personal income  and housing starts grew, while the Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing index increased by 3.2 percentage points to 61.3, indicating accelerating growth.

Trend: The Freight TSI was 0.7 percent below its all-time high of 136.2 in June increase following a 0.7 percent decline in July and the 0.1 percent increase in August. The August level was the third highest that the index has attained and was higher than it had ever been prior to May 2018. The TSI’s level for each of the last six months has exceeded any level it had previously attained. During these six months, the index average was 6.6 percent higher than the same six months in 2017 and 10.2 percent higher than the comparable period in 2016. The index has exceeded a level of 130 in every month since October 2017, a level it had never previously reached. The August index was 42.7 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 August 2018 (135.3) were 42.7 percent higher than the low in April 2009 during the recession (94.8). The August 2018 level was 0.7 percent below the historic peak reached in June 2018 (136.2) (Table 1A).

Year-to-date: For-hire freight shipments measured by the index were up 1.7 percent in August compared to the end of 2017 (Table 3).

Long-term trend: For-hire freight shipments are up 16.0 percent in the five years from August 2013 and are up 24.0 percent in the 10 years from August 2008 (Table 5). 

Same month of previous year: August 2018 for-hire freight shipments were up 4.6 percent from August 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 September 2018 index is scheduled for Nov. 15.

Passenger Index: The TSI for passengers rose 0.2 percent in August from its July level (Table 6).  The Passenger TSI August 2018 level of 131.7 was 3.7 percent above the August 2017 level (Table 7). The index is up 12.1 percent in five years and up 13.8 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 August from its July level (Table 8). The combined TSI August 2018 level of 134.2 was 4.4 percent above the August 2017 level (Table 9). The combined index is up 14.8 percent in five years and up 20.7 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 Transportation Services Index and the Economy, 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
February132.51.7128.21.3131.21.6
March134.61.6128.50.2132.61.1
April134.4-0.1129.50.8132.80.2
May135.71.0130.40.7134.00.9
June136.20.4131.50.8134.70.5
July135.2-0.7131.4-0.1134.0-0.5
August135.30.1131.70.2134.20.1
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

YearMonthPeakMonthBottom
2009December101.6April94.8
2014November123.3July115.9
2015March123.2December120.7
2016July125.1March120.9
2017December133.0January124.6
2018(thru August)June136.2January130.3
Source: 

 Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from previous month
2015201620172018
% Change% Change% Change% Change
January-0.11.70.2-2.0
February-0.8-1.01.41.7
March1.1-0.6-1.21.6
April-0.91.40.2-0.1
May0.2-0.41.81.0
June-0.50.5-1.10.4
July0.72.02.3-0.7
August0.2-1.90.30.1
September-0.2-0.8-0.5
October0.21.01.6
November-1.50.70.8
December-0.20.60.9
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

2015201620172018
January122.8122.8124.6130.3
February121.8121.6126.3132.5
March123.2120.9124.8134.6
April122.1122.6125.1134.4
May122.3122.1127.4135.7
June121.7122.7126.0136.2
July122.6125.1128.9135.2
August122.9122.7129.3135.3
September122.7121.7128.6
October122.9122.9130.7
November121.0123.7131.8
December120.7124.4133.0
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change to August from December of the previous year
YearFreightPassengerCombined
2009-1.2-0.6-1.0
20105.01.54.0
20111.7-1.10.9
2012-2.1-0.1-1.5
20133.91.43.1
20142.92.32.7
20150.01.80.6
20161.7-0.70.9
20173.91.33.0
20181.73.42.3
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the August Freight TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
August Freight TSIPercent change from same month previous year
200999.2-9.1
2010106.77.6
2011110.63.7
2012112.61.8
2013116.63.6
2014121.13.9
2015122.91.5
2016122.7-0.2
2017129.35.4
2018135.34.6
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent Change to 2018 (August to August)
Since August . . .Duration in yearsFreight TSI Percent change to August 2018Passenger TSI Percent change to August 2018Combined TSI Percent change to August 2018
201714.63.74.4
2016210.36.69.0
2015310.17.29.1
2014411.79.410.9
2013516.012.114.8
2012620.213.918.1
2011722.317.720.8
2010826.817.523.8
2009936.420.131.1
20081024.013.820.7
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from previous month
2015201620172018
% Change% Change% Change% Change
January-0.5-0.60.5-0.7
February-0.61.5-1.01.3
March1.6-2.20.70.2
April0.11.11.00.8
May0.20.3-0.20.7
June0.10.60.30.8
July2.2-0.40.2-0.1
August-1.3-0.9-0.20.2
September0.21.5-2.5
October1.1-1.42.9
November-0.80.90.6
December0.80.5-0.6
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the August Passenger TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
August Passenger TSIPercent change from same month previous year
2009109.7-5.2
2010112.12.2
2011111.9-0.2
2012115.63.3
2013117.51.6
2014120.42.5
2015122.92.1
2016123.60.6
2017127.02.8
2018131.73.7
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-0.8-0.20.61.6
March1.3-1.2-0.51.1
April-0.71.40.40.2
May0.2-0.21.20.9
June-0.30.6-0.60.5
July1.21.21.6-0.5
August-0.2-1.60.20.1
September-0.1-0.1-1.2
October0.50.22.0
November-1.30.80.8
December0.10.50.4
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the August Combined TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
August Combined TSIPercent change from same month previous year
2009102.4-7.9
2010108.45.9
2011111.12.5
2012113.62.3
2013116.92.9
2014121.03.5
2015123.01.7
2016123.10.1
2017128.64.5
2018134.24.4
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).

Updated: Thursday, October 11, 2018