Transportation Services Index

You are here

December 2017 Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI)

Release Number: 
BTS 08-18

Dowload Excel Tables

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 December, 0.7 percent higher than the previous highest level reached in November, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS). The December 2017 index level (132.0) was 39.4 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
Dec-12112.2
Jan-13114.2
Feb-13115.7
Mar-13115.5
Apr-13114.7
May-13115.9
Jun-13116.4
Jul-13115.9
Aug-13116.6
Sep-13116.7
Oct-13116.5
Nov-13119.0
Dec-13117.8
Jan-14115.8
Feb-14117.9
Mar-14119.1
Apr-14120.1
May-14120.7
Jun-14119.8
Jul-14120.4
Aug-14121.1
Sep-14121.4
Oct-14122.2
Nov-14123.4
Dec-14123.0
Jan-15122.7
Feb-15121.6
Mar-15122.5
Apr-15121.9
May-15122.5
Jun-15122.1
Jul-15122.5
Aug-15122.8
Sep-15122.6
Oct-15122.9
Nov-15120.9
Dec-15120.8
Jan-16122.5
Feb-16121.4
Mar-16119.9
Apr-16122.2
May-16122.1
Jun-16123.1
Jul-16124.9
Aug-16122.4
Sep-16121.5
Oct-16122.8
Nov-16123.6
Dec-16124.4
Jan-17124.2
Feb-17126.1
Mar-17123.6
Apr-17124.4
May-17127.4
Jun-17126.6
Jul-17128.7
Aug-17129.0
Sep-17128.4
Oct-17130.3
Nov-17131.1
Dec-17132.0
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

The level of for-hire freight shipments in December measured by the Freight TSI (132.0) reached all all-time high for the third consecutive month (Table 2A). For the year, the index was 6.1 percent higher in December 2017 than in December 2016, the largest annual gain since 2010. BTS’ TSI records begin in 2000. See historical TSI data.

The November index was revised to 131.1 from 130.8 in last month’s release.  Monthly numbers for January through October were 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 December increase in the Freight TSI was broad based, with increases in Rail Carloads, Rail Intermodal, Trucking, and Water, while Pipeline and Air Freight declined. The TSI increase took place against a background of mostly positive results for other indicators. The Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production index rose by 0.9 percent in December, with significant increases in mining and utilities and a small increase in all manufacturing. Employment rose, Personal income grew and the Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing index rose to 59.7, indicating accelerating growth. Meanwhile, housing starts fell by 8.2 percent.

The 2.8 percent increase in the Freight TSI in the fourth quarter was consistent with the 2.6 percent growth in GDP during the same months. GDP growth had been 3.2 percent in the third quarter and 3.1 percent in the second quarter, when the Freight TSI also grew. GDP growth was slower in the first quarter of 2017, when the Freight TSI declined.

Trend: The Freight TSI’s new all-time high of 132.0 in December, 0.7 percent above the previous all-time high in November, was the seventh record-high level in 2017. The December 2017 index was 5.7 percent higher than the pre-2017 high of 124.9 in July 2016 and 6.1 percent higher than the December 2016 level of 124.4. The December increase was the third monthly increase in succession and the third consecutive record-high level. In nine out of 12 months in 2017, the Freight TSI exceeded the record high for all months prior to 2017 (124.9 in July 2016).

Over the last nine months of 2017, the index rose 6.8 percent with three quarterly increases. The increase of 2.8 percent in the fourth quarter was the largest quarterly increase since 2.9 percent in the first quarter of 2013. The three consecutive quarters of growth were the longest sequence of quarterly increases since the string of nine quarterly increases from the fourth quarter of 2012 through the fourth quarter of 2014.  

The December index was 39.4 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 December 2017 (132.0) were 39.4 percent higher than the low in April 2009 during the recession (94.7). The December 2017 level reached its all-time high.

Year-to-date: For-hire freight shipments measured by the index were up 6.1 percent in December compared to the end of 2016 (Table 3).

Long-term trend: For-hire freight shipments are up 17.6 percent in the five years from December 2012 and are up 19.2 percent in the 10 years from December 2007 (Table 5). 

Same month of previous year: December 2017 for-hire freight shipments were up 6.1 percent from December 2016 (Tables 4, 5).

Fourth quarter changes: The freight TSI rose 2.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2017, the third consecutive quarterly increase (Table 10).  

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 January index is scheduled for March 14.

Passenger Index: The TSI for passengers fell 0.2 percent in December from its November level (Table 6). The Passenger TSI December 2017 level of 127.0 was 1.6 percent above the December 2016 level (Table 7). The index is up 9.6 percent in five years and up 9.2 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 0.5 percent in December from its November level (Table 8). The combined TSI December 2017 level of 130.6 was 4.7 percent above the December 2016 level (Table 9). The combined index is up 15.2 percent in five years and up 16.0 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.   

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)
FreightPassengerCombined
IndexPct. Change IndexPct. Change IndexPct. Change
June126.6-0.6127.30.7126.9-0.2
July128.71.7127.2-0.1128.31.1
August129.00.2126.5-0.6128.30.0
September128.4-0.5123.6-2.3127.0-1.0
October130.31.5127.12.8129.41.9
November131.10.6127.20.1129.90.4
December132.00.7127.0-0.2130.60.5
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

YearMonthPeakMonthBottom
2009June101.5April94.7
2013November119.0January114.2
2014November123.4January115.8
2015October122.9December120.8
2016July124.9March119.9
2017(thru December)December132.0November123.6
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from previous month
2014201520162017
% Change% Change% Change% Change
January-1.7-0.21.4-0.2
February1.8-0.9-0.91.5
March1.00.7-1.2-2.0
April0.8-0.51.90.6
May0.50.5-0.12.4
June-0.7-0.30.8-0.6
July0.50.31.51.7
August0.60.2-2.00.2
September0.2-0.2-0.7-0.5
October0.70.21.11.5
November1.0-1.60.70.6
December-0.3-0.10.60.7
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

2014201520162017
January115.8122.7122.5124.2
February117.9121.6121.4126.1
March119.1122.5119.9123.6
April120.1121.9122.2124.4
May120.7122.5122.1127.4
June119.8122.1123.1126.6
July120.4122.5124.9128.7
August121.1122.8122.4129.0
September121.4122.6121.5128.4
October122.2122.9122.8130.3
November123.4120.9123.6131.1
December123.0120.8124.4132.0
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change to December from December of the previous year
YearFreightPassengerCombined
2008-9.3-5.1-8.2
20091.10.00.8
20107.12.45.7
20115.92.24.7
2012-2.50.3-1.6
20135.01.64.0
20144.42.53.8
2015-1.83.0-0.3
20163.00.62.2
20176.11.64.7
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the December Freight TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
December Freight TSIPercent change from same month previous year
2008100.4-9.3
2009101.51.1
2010108.77.1
2011115.15.9
2012112.2-2.5
2013117.85.0
2014123.04.4
2015120.8-1.8
2016124.43.0
2017132.06.1
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent Change to 2017 (December to December)
Since December . . .Duration in yearsFreight TSI Percent change to December 2017Passenger TSI Percent change to December 2017Combined TSI Percent change to December 2017
201616.11.64.7
201529.32.27.0
201437.35.26.7
2013412.17.810.8
2012517.69.615.2
2011614.79.913.3
2010721.412.318.6
2009830.015.025.3
2008931.515.026.3
20071019.29.216.0
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from previous month
2014201520162017
% Change% Change% Change% Change
January0.0-0.6-0.60.4
February0.2-0.81.0-1.4
March1.61.8-1.81.1
April-0.20.21.21.3
May0.60.20.3-0.2
June-0.90.20.80.7
July0.32.2-0.6-0.1
August0.7-1.6-1.1-0.6
September-0.20.31.7-2.3
October0.21.1-1.52.8
November-0.4-0.71.10.1
December0.80.60.2-0.2
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the December Passenger TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
December Passenger TSIPercent change from same month previous year
2008110.4-5.1
2009110.40.0
2010113.12.4
2011115.62.2
2012115.90.3
2013117.81.6
2014120.72.5
2015124.33.0
2016125.00.6
2017127.01.6
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from previous month
2014201520162017
% Change% Change% Change% Change
January-1.2-0.30.70.0
February1.3-0.9-0.30.6
March1.21.1-1.4-1.0
April0.5-0.21.70.8
May0.60.40.11.6
June-0.8-0.20.8-0.2
July0.40.90.81.1
August0.7-0.2-1.80.0
September0.1-0.10.0-1.0
October0.50.50.31.9
November0.6-1.30.70.4
December0.00.20.60.5
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the December Combined TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
December Combined TSIPercent change from same month previous year
2008103.4-8.2
2009104.20.8
2010110.15.7
2011115.34.7
2012113.4-1.6
2013117.94.0
2014122.43.8
2015122.0-0.3
2016124.72.2
2017130.64.7
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from the last month of the previous quarter
Year1st Quarter (Jan-Mar) % Growth2nd Quarter (Apr-Jun) % Growth3rd Quarter (Jul-Sep) % Growth4th Quarter (Oct-Dec) % Growth
2008-0.90.2-2.3-6.5
2009-4.60.33.61.9
20103.81.00.71.4
20112.0-0.51.13.2
2012-3.01.7-1.30.2
20132.90.80.30.9
20141.10.61.31.3
2015-0.4-0.30.4-1.5
2016-0.72.7-1.32.4
2017-0.62.41.42.8
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from the last month of the previous quarter
Year1st Quarter (Jan-Mar) % Growth2nd Quarter (Apr-Jun) % Growth3rd Quarter (Jul-Sep) % Growth4th Quarter (Oct-Dec) % Growth
20080.4-0.3-3.7-1.5
2009-1.70.00.90.8
20100.31.01.3-0.1
20110.40.60.80.4
20120.3-0.80.50.2
20130.31.2-0.30.4
20141.8-0.50.70.5
20150.40.60.91.1
2016-1.42.4-0.1-0.2
20170.11.8-2.92.8
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from the last month of the previous quarter
Year1st Quarter (Jan-Mar) % Growth2nd Quarter (Apr-Jun) % Growth3rd Quarter (Jul-Sep) % Growth4th Quarter (Oct-Dec) % Growth
2008-0.50.0-2.7-5.1
2009-3.70.22.81.6
20102.71.10.80.9
20111.5-0.21.02.4
2012-2.01.0-0.80.2
20132.10.90.20.8
20141.30.31.21.1
2015-0.2-0.10.6-0.7
2016-1.02.6-1.01.6
2017-0.42.20.12.8
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).