Transportation Services Index

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June 2018 Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI)

Release Number: 
BTS-38-18

Date: Wednesday, August 8, 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, rose 0.4 percent in June from May, rising for the second consecutive month to reaching a new all-time high. The June 2018 index level (136.5) was 44.0 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
Jun-13116.3
Jul-13115.9
Aug-13116.6
Sep-13116.6
Oct-13116.5
Nov-13119.0
Dec-13117.6
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-15123.1
Apr-15122.1
May-15122.3
Jun-15121.8
Jul-15122.6
Aug-15122.9
Sep-15122.6
Oct-15122.9
Nov-15120.9
Dec-15120.7
Jan-16122.7
Feb-16121.6
Mar-16120.8
Apr-16122.6
May-16122.2
Jun-16123.0
Jul-16125.1
Aug-16122.7
Sep-16121.7
Oct-16122.9
Nov-16123.7
Dec-16124.4
Jan-17124.5
Feb-17126.1
Mar-17124.6
Apr-17124.9
May-17127.5
Jun-17126.2
Jul-17128.9
Aug-17129.2
Sep-17128.6
Oct-17130.6
Nov-17131.7
Dec-17133.0
Jan-18130.3
Feb-18132.4
Mar-18134.6
Apr-18134.4
May-18135.9
Jun-18136.5
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

The level of for-hire freight shipments in June measured by the Freight TSI (136.5) reached its all-time high, the fourth new high in the past five months (Table 2A). BTS’ TSI records begin in 2000. See historical TSI data.

The May index was revised to 135.9 from 135.6 in last month’s release. The April index was revised up slightly but still remains below the March 2018 level.

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 June increase of 1.0 percent in the Freight TSI was driven by increases in trucking, water, and rail intermodal, while pipeline, air freight and rail carloads decreased. The TSI increase took place against a background of mostly positive results for other indicators. The Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production index rose by 0.6 percent in June, with increases in mining and manufacturing but a decrease in utilities. Personal income grew, but housing starts declined. The Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing index rose to 60.2, indicating accelerating growth.

Both the Freight TSI and GDP rose in each of the last seven quarters. GDP growth reached 4.1 percent (annualized) in the second quarter of 2018, its fastest pace since the third quarter of 2014. Quarterly growth in TSI Freight hit a high of 3.4 percent two quarters earlier, in the fourth quarter of 2017, its fastest pace since the first quarter of 2010.

Trend: The Freight TSI rose to its second record high in a row, its third record high in four months, and its sixth record high in nine months with the 1.0 percent increase in June. The Freight TSI’s level for each of the last four months has exceeded any level it had previously attained. During these four months, the index average was 7.6 percent higher than the same four months in 2017 and 10.8 percent higher than the comparable period in 2016. On a quarterly basis, the index has risen in each of the last seven quarters, the longest sequence of quarterly increases in four years. The 8.2 percent rise over the most recent four quarters was the largest year-over-year increase in eight years. The growth of 1.4 percent in the second quarter of 2018 was an increase from the previous quarter, but below the average pace of growth for the most recent four quarters. The June index was 44.0 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 June 2018 (136.5) were 44.0 percent higher than the low in April 2009 during the recession (94.8). The June 2018 level reached its all-time high.

Year to date: For-hire freight shipments measured by the index were up 2.6 percent in June compared to the end of 2017 (Table 3).

Long-term trend: For-hire freight shipments are up 17.4 percent in the five years from June 2013 and are up 24.3 percent in the 10 years from June 2008 (Table 5). 

Same month of previous year: June 2018 for-hire freight shipments were up 8.2 percent from June 2017 (Tables 4, 5).

2nd quarter changes: The freight TSI rose 1.4 percent in the 2nd quarter, the seventh 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 June 2018 index is scheduled for Sept. 13.

Passenger Index: The TSI for passengers did not change from May to June (Table 6). The Passenger TSI June 2018 level of 130.0 was 2.1 percent above the June 2017 level (Table 7). The index is up 10.5 percent in five years and up 11.7 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 0.2 percent in June from its May level (Table 8). The combined TSI June 2018 level of 134.3 was 6.1 percent above the June 2017 level (Table 9). The combined index is up 15.0 percent in five years and up 19.9 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.   

Updated: Wednesday, August 8, 2018