Transportation Services Index

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July 2018 Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI)

Release Number: 
BTS 42-18

Date: Thursday, September 13, 2018

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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 0.9 percent in July from June, falling for the first month after reaching an all-time high in June. The July 2018 index level (135.1) was 42.5 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
Jul-13115.9
Aug-13116.6
Sep-13116.6
Oct-13116.5
Nov-13119.0
Dec-13117.7
Jan-14115.9
Feb-14117.9
Mar-14119.5
Apr-14120.0
May-14120.5
Jun-14119.6
Jul-14120.4
Aug-14121.1
Sep-14121.4
Oct-14122.2
Nov-14123.3
Dec-14122.9
Jan-15122.8
Feb-15121.8
Mar-15123.2
Apr-15122.1
May-15122.3
Jun-15121.7
Jul-15122.6
Aug-15122.9
Sep-15122.7
Oct-15122.9
Nov-15121.0
Dec-15120.7
Jan-16122.8
Feb-16121.6
Mar-16120.8
Apr-16122.6
May-16122.1
Jun-16122.8
Jul-16125.1
Aug-16122.7
Sep-16121.7
Oct-16122.9
Nov-16123.8
Dec-16124.4
Jan-17124.6
Feb-17126.3
Mar-17124.8
Apr-17125.0
May-17127.4
Jun-17126.1
Jul-17128.9
Aug-17129.2
Sep-17128.6
Oct-17130.7
Nov-17131.8
Dec-17133.0
Jan-18130.3
Feb-18132.5
Mar-18134.6
Apr-18134.4
May-18135.8
Jun-18136.3
Jul-18135.1
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Despite the month-to-month decline, the level of for-hire freight shipments in July measured by the Freight TSI was up 4.8 percent from July 2017 (Table 4) and was at its third highest all-time level. The index was 1.6 percent higher than the level of any month prior to 2018 and 8.0 percent higher than the level of any month prior to 2017.

The Freight TSI (135.1) was 0.9 percent below the all-time high level of 136.3 in June 2018 (Table 2A). BTS’ TSI records begin in 2000. See historical TSI data.

The June index was revised to 136.3 from 136.5 in last month’s release but remains an all-time high. The May index was revised down slightly and the February index was revised up 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 July decrease in the Freight TSI was driven by decreases in all modes except Air Freight and Rail Intermodal. The TSI decrease took place against a background of increases for other indicators, although some showed signs of slowing. The Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production index increased by 0.1 percent in July, with decreases in mining and utilities. Personal income  and housing starts grew, while the Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing index declined by 2.1 percentage points to 58.1, indicating continued but decelerating growth.

Trend: The Freight TSI rose by 1.6 percent from the start of 2018 through July despite a drop of 0.5 percent from June to July. During the first seven months of the year, four months of growth have outpaced three months of decline. The July level of 135.1 was the third highest level the Freight TSI has attained, and was higher than it had ever been prior to May 2018. The Freight TSI’s level for the last three months has exceeded any level it had previously attained. During these three months, the index average was 6.5 percent higher than the same three months in 2017 and 10.0 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 July index was 42.5 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 July 2018 (135.1) were 42.5 percent higher than the low in April 2009 during the recession (94.8). The July 2018 level was 0.9 percent below the historic peak reached in June 2018 (136.3).

Year-to-date: For-hire freight shipments measured by the index were up 1.6 percent in July compared to the end of 2017 (Table 3).

Long-term trend: For-hire freight shipments are up 16.6 percent in the five years from July 2013 and are up 21.7 percent in the 10 years from July 2008 (Table 5). 

Same month of previous year: July 2018 for-hire freight shipments were up 4.8 percent from July 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 June 2018 index is scheduled for Oct. 11.

Passenger Index: The TSI for passengers rose 0.2 percent in July from its June level (Table 6).  The Passenger TSI July 2018 level of 131.8 was 3.5 percent above the July 2017 level (Table 7). The index is up 13.1 percent in five years and up 13.4 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 fell 0.5 percent in July from its June level (Table 8). The combined TSI July 2018 level of 134.1 was 4.4 percent above the July 2017 level (Table 9). The combined index is up 15.4 percent in five years and up 18.9 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
January130.3-2.0126.5-0.7129.1-1.6
February132.51.7128.31.4131.21.6
March134.61.6128.50.2132.61.1
April134.4-0.1129.50.8132.80.2
May135.81.0130.40.7134.00.9
June136.30.4131.50.8134.80.6
July135.1-0.9131.80.2134.1-0.5
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

YearMonthPeakMonthBottom
2009December101.6April94.8
2014November123.3July115.9
2015March123.2December120.7
2016July125.1March120.8
2017December133.0January124.6
2018(thru July)June136.3January130.3
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
March1.1-0.7-1.21.6
April-0.91.50.2-0.1
May0.2-0.41.91.0
June-0.50.6-1.00.4
July0.71.92.2-0.9
August0.2-1.90.2
September-0.2-0.8-0.5
October0.21.01.6
November-1.50.70.8
December-0.20.50.9
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

2015201620172018
January122.8122.8124.6130.3
February121.8121.6126.3132.5
March123.2120.8124.8134.6
April122.1122.6125.0134.4
May122.3122.1127.4135.8
June121.7122.8126.1136.3
July122.6125.1128.9135.1
August122.9122.7129.2
September122.7121.7128.6
October122.9122.9130.7
November121.0123.8131.8
December120.7124.4133.0
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change to July from December of the previous year
YearFreightPassengerCombined
2009-2.0-0.4-1.5
20105.21.54.1
20111.41.91.5
2012-1.5-0.9-1.3
20133.30.52.5
20142.31.62.0
2015-0.23.10.8
20163.60.22.5
20173.61.52.9
20181.63.52.2
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the July Freight TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
July Freight TSIPercent change from same month previous year
200998.4-11.4
2010106.98.6
2011110.33.2
2012113.32.7
2013115.92.3
2014120.43.9
2015122.61.8
2016125.12.0
2017128.93.0
2018135.14.8
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent Change to 2018 (July to July)
Since July . . .Duration in yearsFreight TSI Percent change to July 2018Passenger TSI Percent change to July 2018Combined TSI Percent change to July 2018
201714.83.54.4
201628.05.77.2
2015310.25.98.8
2014412.210.211.6
2013516.613.115.4
2012619.214.917.8
2011722.514.319.9
2010826.417.623.6
2009937.319.831.7
20081021.713.418.9
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from previous month
2015201620172018
% Change% Change% Change% Change
January-0.5-0.60.4-0.7
February-0.61.5-1.01.4
March1.6-2.20.70.2
April0.11.11.00.8
May0.20.3-0.20.7
June0.10.60.30.8
July2.2-0.50.20.2
August-1.4-1.0-0.5
September0.21.7-2.3
October1.2-1.43.0
November-0.81.00.6
December0.80.4-0.7
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the July Passenger TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
July Passenger TSIPercent change from same month previous year
2009110.0-5.3
2010112.11.9
2011115.32.9
2012114.7-0.5
2013116.51.6
2014119.62.7
2015124.54.1
2016124.70.2
2017127.32.1
2018131.83.5
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
March1.2-1.2-0.61.1
April-0.61.40.50.2
May0.2-0.21.20.9
June-0.30.6-0.60.6
July1.21.11.5-0.5
August-0.3-1.70.0
September0.00.0-1.0
October0.50.22.0
November-1.30.80.8
December0.10.50.4
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the July Combined TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
July Combined TSIPercent change from same month previous year
2009101.8-9.8
2010108.56.6
2011111.83.0
2012113.81.8
2013116.22.1
2014120.23.4
2015123.32.6
2016125.11.5
2017128.42.6
2018134.14.4
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, September 13, 2018