Transportation Services Index

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February 2018 Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI)

Release Number: 
BTS 18-18

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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 February from January, falling for the second consecutive month. The February 2018 index level (127.5) was 34.5 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
Feb-13115.2
Mar-13115.6
Apr-13114.4
May-13115.7
Jun-13116.4
Jul-13116.0
Aug-13116.7
Sep-13116.8
Oct-13116.6
Nov-13118.7
Dec-13117.7
Jan-14116.0
Feb-14117.1
Mar-14119.4
Apr-14119.8
May-14120.4
Jun-14119.9
Jul-14120.5
Aug-14121.3
Sep-14121.6
Oct-14122.3
Nov-14122.9
Dec-14123.0
Jan-15123.0
Feb-15124.2
Mar-15118.1
Apr-15119.1
May-15119.7
Jun-15117.5
Jul-15118.2
Aug-15118.9
Sep-15118.6
Oct-15117.7
Nov-15119.6
Dec-15117.9
Jan-16120.2
Feb-16118.3
Mar-16117.6
Apr-16119.0
May-16118.9
Jun-16120.5
Jul-16122.2
Aug-16119.7
Sep-16118.8
Oct-16120.0
Nov-16120.2
Dec-16121.5
Jan-17121.8
Feb-17122.3
Mar-17121.3
Apr-17121.2
May-17124.0
Jun-17123.9
Jul-17126.1
Aug-17126.2
Sep-17125.8
Oct-17127.5
Nov-17127.9
Dec-17130.1
Jan-18127.6
Feb-18127.5
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

The level of for-hire freight shipments in February measured by the Freight TSI (127.5) was 2.0 percent below the all-time high level of 130.1 in December 2017 (Table 2A). BTS’ TSI records begin in 2000. See historical TSI data.

The January index was revised to 127.5 from 132.3 in last month’s release. January through December 2017 were revised down slightly; however, December 2017 remains an all-time high.

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 February decrease was narrow in terms of modes, with only a large decrease in pipeline combined with a smaller drop in trucking. Meanwhile, rail carloads, rail intermodal, air freight and water all increased. The TSI decline came amidst mixed results for related indicators.  The Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production index increased by 1.2 percent in February, but utility output fell by 4.7 percent. Personal Income  grew in February, while Housing Starts declined by 5.7 percent, and the Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing index grew to 60.8, indicating positive and accelerating growth. These numbers indicate that a significant drop in utility output likely caused by unseasonably warm weather in the eastern U.S. during the first two months of 2018 had a major impact on the pipeline sector and a drop in construction offset transportation growth driven by a rise in manufacturing. The weather may also have contributed to growth in other modes, as shipments delayed by January weather moved in February instead.

Trend: The 0.1 percent decline in February, following a decrease in January, marked the first decline of two consecutive months since April 2017. The total two-month decrease of 2.0 percent reversed the increase in November and December, returning Freight TSI to its October 2017 level. However, the Freight TSI remained at its fourth highest level and higher than at any time prior to October 2017. The February index was 34.5 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 February 2018 (127.5) were 34.5 percent higher than the low in April 2009 during the recession (94.8). The February 2018 level was 2.0 percent below the historic peak reached in December 2017 (130.1) (Table 1A).

Year to date: For-hire freight shipments measured by the index were down 2.0 percent in February compared to the end of 2017 (Table 3).

Long-term trend: For-hire freight shipments are up 10.7 percent in the five years from February 2013 and are up 14.1 percent in the 10 years from February 2008 (Table 5). 

Same month of previous year: February 2018 for-hire freight shipments were up 4.3 percent from February 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 March 2018 index is scheduled for May 9.

Passenger Index: The TSI for passengers was unchanged from January to February (Table 6). The Passenger TSI February 2018 level of 126.7 was 1.8 percent above the February 2017 level (Table 7). The index is up 7.8 percent in five years and up 7.1 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 was unchanged from January to February (Table 8). The combined TSI February 2018 level of 127.3 was 3.5 percent above the February 2017 level (Table 9). The combined index is up 9.7 percent in five years and up 11.8 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.

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 BTS report explaining the TSI. 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
August126.20.1126.9-0.5126.4-0.2
September125.8-0.3123.8-2.4125.2-0.9
October127.51.4127.53.0127.51.8
November127.90.3128.30.6128.00.4
December130.11.7127.4-0.7129.31.0
January127.6-1.9126.7-0.5127.3-1.5
February127.5-0.1126.70.0127.30.0
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

YearMonthPeakMonthBottom
2009December101.6April94.8
2014December123.0July116.0
2015February124.2June117.5
2016July122.2March117.6
2017December130.1April121.2
2018(thru February)January127.6February127.5
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from previous month
2015201620172018
% Change% Change% Change% Change
January0.02.00.2-1.9
February1.0-1.60.4-0.1
March-4.9-0.6-0.8
April0.81.2-0.1
May0.5-0.12.3
June-1.81.3-0.1
July0.61.41.8
August0.6-2.00.1
September-0.3-0.8-0.3
October-0.81.01.4
November1.60.20.3
December-1.41.11.7
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

2015201620172018
January123.0120.2121.8127.6
February124.2118.3122.3127.5
March118.1117.6121.3
April119.1119.0121.2
May119.7118.9124.0
June117.5120.5123.9
July118.2122.2126.1
August118.9119.7126.2
September118.6118.8125.8
October117.7120.0127.5
November119.6120.2127.9
December117.9121.5130.1
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change to February from December of the previous year
YearFreightPassengerCombined
20090.50.30.4
20103.3-2.11.7
20110.5-0.70.1
2012-2.31.6-1.2
20132.71.42.3
2014-0.50.3-0.3
20151.0-1.20.3
20160.30.60.5
20170.7-0.70.2
2018-2.0-0.5-1.5
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the February Freight TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
February Freight TSIPercent change from same month previous year
2009100.8-9.8
2010105.04.2
2011109.24.0
2012112.32.8
2013115.22.6
2014117.11.6
2015124.26.1
2016118.3-4.8
2017122.33.4
2018127.54.3
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent Change to 2018 (February to February)
Since February . . .Duration in yearsFreight TSI Percent change to February 2018Passenger TSI Percent change to February 2018Combined TSI Percent change to February 2018
201714.31.83.5
201627.81.25.6
201532.76.23.7
201448.97.38.3
2013510.77.89.7
2012613.57.811.8
2011716.812.815.5
2010821.417.220.1
2009926.514.522.6
20081014.17.111.8
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from previous month
2015201620172018
% Change% Change% Change% Change
January-0.5-0.50.6-0.5
February-0.71.1-1.30.0
March1.7-2.10.8
April0.11.31.3
May0.30.2-0.2
June0.10.80.8
July2.2-0.5-0.2
August-1.4-1.1-0.5
September0.21.6-2.4
October1.1-1.43.0
November-0.80.90.6
December0.70.4-0.7
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the February Passenger TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
February Passenger TSIPercent change from same month previous year
2009110.7-6.4
2010108.1-2.3
2011112.33.9
2012117.54.6
2013117.50.0
2014118.10.5
2015119.31.0
2016125.24.9
2017124.4-0.6
2018126.71.8
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-0.21.20.3-1.5
February0.5-0.7-0.20.0
March-2.9-1.2-0.2
April0.61.30.3
May0.40.11.5
June-1.21.20.2
July1.20.71.2
August-0.1-1.7-0.2
September-0.10.0-0.9
October-0.10.21.8
November0.80.30.4
December-0.70.91.0
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the February Combined TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
February Combined TSIPercent change from same month previous year
2009103.8-8.9
2010106.02.1
2011110.24.0
2012113.93.4
2013116.01.8
2014117.51.3
2015122.84.5
2016120.6-1.8
2017123.02.0
2018127.33.5
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).