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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

August 2022 Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI)

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

BTS 43-22

 

The Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI), which is based on the amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry, rose 0.2% in August from July, rising after a one-month decline, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS). From August 2021 to August 2022 the index rose 5.0%. (Tables 1, 2, and 2A).

 

The level of for-hire freight shipments in August measured by the Freight TSI (140.9) was 0.7% below the all-time high level of 141.9 in August 2019 (Table 2A). BTS’ TSI records begin in 2000. See historical TSI data

The July index was revised to 140.6 from 139.6 in last month’s release (Table A).

BTS is withholding the scheduled release of the passenger and combined indexes for August. The passenger index for August is a statistical estimate of airline passenger travel and other components based on historical trends up to July 2022. The statistical estimate does not fully account for the changing impacts of the coronavirus on the historical trend. Air freight for August is also a statistical estimate. Since air freight makes up a smaller part of the freight index, the freight TSI is being released as scheduled with the air freight estimate included. The July passenger and combined indexes are available on the BTS website.

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 seasonal movement, which enables month-to-month comparisons.

Analysis: The Freight TSI grew in August due to seasonally adjusted increases in trucking and water, while rail carloads, rail intermodal, pipeline, and air freight decreased.

The August increase came in the context of mixed results for several other indicators. The Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production (IP) Index declined by 0.2% in August, reflecting an increase of 0.1% in manufacturing and a decrease of 2.3% in utilities, while mining was stable. Housing starts were up 12.2% while personal income increased by 0.3%.

The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) Manufacturing index remained at 52.8, indicating continued growth in manufacturing.

Although the August Passenger TSI is being withheld because of the previously cited difficulty of estimating airline passenger travel and other components, the July index is now being released. The index increased 0.5% from June to July following a decrease of 0.4% in June. Seasonally adjusted air passenger declined while rail passenger and transit grew.

The Passenger TSI has now exceeded its level in March 2020 —the first month of the pandemic— for fourteen months in a row but remains below its pre-pandemic level (February 2020) for the 29th consecutive month.

Trend: The August freight index increase followed a monthly decrease for a net increase of 0.1% since June 2022.  It was the tenth increase in twelve months, for a total increase of 4.9% since August 2021. The August Freight TSI is 12.5% above the pandemic low in April 2020; it has increased in 19 of the 28 months since that low. The index is now 0.7% below its previous record level of 141.9 set in August 2019, despite increasing in 21 of the 36 months since that earlier peak. 
For additional historical data, go to TSI data.

Index highs and lows: For-hire freight shipments in August 2022 (140.9) were 48.5% higher than the low in April 2009 during the recession (94.9). The August 2022 level was 0.7% below the historic peak reached in August 2019 (141.9) (Table 1A).

Year to date: For-hire freight shipments measured by the index were up 2.5% in August compared to the end of 2021 (Table 3).

Long-term trend: For-hire freight shipments are up 9.1% in the five years from August 2017 and are up 24.8% in the 10 years from August 2012 (Table 5).  

Same month of previous year: August 2022 for-hire freight shipments were up 5.0% from August 2021 (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 2022 index is scheduled for November 9, 2022.

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 charts and discussion on the relationship of the TSI to the economy, see Transportation as an Economic Indicator: Transportation Services Index.

A BTS report explaining the TSI, Transportation Services Index and the Economy, is available for download.

 

Table A: Summary of Revisions to Freight TSI in Previous 12 Months

 

Freight TSI

Current release

Previous month's release

Percent change

Aug-21

134.2

134.3

-0.07

Sep-21

135.5

135.2

0.22

Oct-21

136.7

136.5

0.15

Nov-21

137.3

137.2

0.07

Dec-21

137.5

137.4

0.07

Jan-22

139.0

139.1

-0.07

Feb-22

140.0

140.0

0.00

Mar-22

140.8

140.7

0.07

Apr-22

139.6

139.5

0.07

May-22

140.2

140.0

0.14

Jun-22

140.8

140.5

0.21

Jul-22

140.6

139.6

0.72

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics. See Transportation Services Index for documentation, data and other background information.

NOTE: The entire Freight TSI is revised monthly. Changes shown only for the previous 12 months.

 

Table 1: Freight Transportation Services Index since February 2022 
Percent Change from Previous Month
(Seasonally-Adjusted, Monthly Average of 2000 = 100)

 

Freight

Index

Percent change 

February

140.0

0.7

March

140.8

0.6

April

139.6

-0.9

May

140.2

0.4

June

140.8

0.4

July

140.6

-0.1

August

140.9

0.2

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics. See Transportation Services Index for documentation, data and other background information.

NOTE: Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

 

Table 1A: Annual High and Low Points in Freight Transportation Services Index, 2009-2022 

Year

Month of peak

Value
at peak

Month of low

Value
at low

2009

December

101.8

April

94.9

2018

November

139.7

January

131.7

2019

August

141.9

December

136.9

2020

January

136.9

April

125.3

2021

April

137.5

February

133.9

2022 (thru August)

August

140.9

January

139.0

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics. See Transportation Services Index for documentation, data and other background information.

 

Table 2: Freight Transportation Services Index Monthly Changes, 2019-2022
Percent change from previous month

 

2019

2020

2021

2022

Percent
change

Percent
change

Percent
change

Percent
change

January

0.8

0.0

1.6

1.1

February

-0.6

-0.1

-2.4

0.7

March

0.1

-1.1

1.6

0.6

April

0.6

-7.3

1.0

-0.9

May

0.3

1.4

-0.4

0.4

June

-0.3

1.6

-0.3

0.4

July

0.9

3.7

-0.9

-0.1

August

1.2

-1.2

-0.8

0.2

September

-2.3

0.5

1.0

 

October

-0.1

0.6

0.9

 

November

0.0

-0.4

0.4

 

December

-1.2

1.4

0.1

 

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics. See Transportation Services Index for documentation, data and other background information.
 

Table 2A: Freight Transportation Services Index by Month, 2019-2022

  2019 2020 2021 2022
January 138.8 136.9 137.2 139.0
February 137.9 136.7 133.9 140.0
March 138.1 135.2 136.1 140.8
April 138.9 125.3 137.5 139.6
May 139.3 127.1 136.9 140.2
June 138.9 129.1 136.5 140.8
July 140.2 133.9 135.3 140.6
August 141.9 132.3 134.2 140.9
September 138.7 133.0 135.5  
October 138.5 133.8 136.7  
November 138.5 133.2 137.3  
December 136.9 135.1 137.5  

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics. See Transportation Services Index for documentation, data and other background information.

 

Table 3: Freight Transportation Services Index Year-to-Date Change, 2013-2022
Percent change to August from December of the previous year

Year Freight
2013 3.9
2014 2.5
2015 0.2
2016 2.5
2017 3.5
2018 2.0
2019 3.1
2020 -3.4
2021 -0.7
2022 2.5

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics. See Transportation Services Index for documentation, data and other background information.

 

Table 4: Freight Transportation Services Index from Year-to-Year
Percent Change in the August Freight TSI 
(Monthly average of 2000 = 100)

 

August Freight TSI

Percent change
from same month
previous year

2013

116.7

3.4

2014

120.8

3.5

2015

123.4

2.2

2016

123.7

0.2

2017

129.2

4.4

2018

136.5

5.7

2019

141.9

4.0

2020

132.3

-6.8

2021

134.2

1.4

2022

140.9

5.0

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics. See Transportation Services Index for documentation, data and other background information.

NOTE: Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

 

Table 5: Freight Transportation Services Index from Previous Years 
Percent Change to 2022 (August to August)

Since
August
 . . .

Duration
in years

Freight TSI
percent change to
August 2022

2021

1

5.0

2020

2

6.5

2019

3

-0.7

2018

4

3.2

2017

5

9.1

2016

6

13.9

2015

7

14.2

2014

8

16.6

2013

9

20.7

2012

10

24.8

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics. See Transportation Services Index for documentation, data and other background information.

 

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).