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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

May 2018 Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI)

Monday, July 16, 2018

Release Number: BTS 33-18
Date: Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI), which is based on the amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry, rose 1.0 percent in May from April, reaching a new all-time high after falling slightly in April. The May 2018 index level (135.6) was 43.0 percent above the April 2009 low during the most recent recession (Tables 1, 2, and 2A).

The level of for-hire freight shipments in May measured by the Freight TSI (135.6) reached its all-time high, the third new high in the past four months (Table 2A). The index is up 6.4 percent in one year and 11.1 percent in two years. BTS’ TSI records begin in 2000. See historical TSI data.

The April index was revised to 134.3 from 134.2 in last month’s release.  The March 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 May increase in the Freight TSI was broad based with increases in all modes except pipelines. The TSI increase took place against a background of mixed results for other indicators. The Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production index declined by 0.1 percent in April, with a decrease in manufacturing. Personal income grew, but housing starts declined, while the Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing index rose to 58.7, indicating accelerating growth.

Trend: The Freight TSI rose to its second record high in three months, and its fifth record high in eight months with the 1.0 percent increase in May. 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 7.3 percent higher than the same three months in 2017 and 10.6 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 Freight TSI grew by 4.1 percent since January 2018. The May index was 43.0 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 May 2018 (135.6) were 43.0 percent higher than the low in April 2009 during the recession (94.8). The May 2018 level reached its all-time high (Table 1A).

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

Long-term trend: For-hire freight shipments are up 17.1 percent in the five years from May 2013 and are up 21.8 percent in the 10 years from May 2008 (Table 5). 

Same month of previous year: May 2018 for-hire freight shipments were up 6.4 percent from May 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 Aug. 8.

Passenger Index: The TSI for passengers rose 0.2 percent in May from its April level (Table 6).  The Passenger TSI May 2018 level of 129.1 was 2.0 percent above the May 2017 level (Table 7). The index is up 10.4 percent in five years and up 10.1 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 rose 0.8 percent in May from its April level (Table 8). The combined TSI May 2018 level of 133.5 was five percent above the May 2017 level (Table 9). The combined index is up 14.9 percent in five years and up 17.8 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 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

Table 1: Freight, Passenger and Combined Transportation Services Indexes Since November 2017

Percent Change from Previous Month
Freight Passenger Combined
Index Pct. Change Index Pct. Change Index Pct. Change
November 131.7 0.8 128.2 0.6 130.6 0.8
December 133.0 1.0 127.3 -0.7 131.1 0.4
January 130.3 -2.0 126.4 -0.7 129.1 -1.5
February 132.5 1.7 128.2 1.4 131.1 1.5
March 134.6 1.6 128.4 0.2 132.6 1.1
April 134.2 -0.3 128.9 0.4 132.5 -0.1
May 135.6 1.0 129.1 0.2 133.5 0.8
Notes:

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source:

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Table 2: Freight Transportation Services Index Monthly Changes, 2015-2018

2015 2016 2017 2018
% Change % Change % Change % Change
January -0.1 1.7 0.2 -2.0
February -0.8 -1.1 1.3 1.7
March 1.1 -0.6 -1.2 1.6
April -0.9 1.5 0.2 -0.3
May 0.2 -0.4 2.1 1.0
June -0.2 0.9 -0.6
July 0.4 1.5 1.7
August 0.3 -1.8 0.2
September -0.2 -0.9 -0.4
October 0.2 1.1 1.6
November -1.6 0.7 0.8
December -0.2 0.4 1.0
Source:

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Table 2A: Freight Transportation Services Index by Month, 2015-2018

2015 2016 2017 2018
January 122.8 122.8 124.5 130.3
February 121.8 121.5 126.1 132.5
March 123.1 120.8 124.6 134.6
April 122.0 122.6 124.8 134.2
May 122.3 122.1 127.4 135.6
June 122.0 123.2 126.6
July 122.5 125.0 128.8
August 122.9 122.7 129.1
September 122.7 121.6 128.6
October 123.0 122.9 130.6
November 121.0 123.8 131.7
December 120.7 124.3 133.0
Source:

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Table 4: Freight Transportation Services Index from Year-to-Year

May Freight TSI Percent change from same month previous year
2009 94.9 -14.7
2010 106.2 11.9
2011 108.5 2.2
2012 112.7 3.9
2013 115.8 2.8
2014 120.5 4.1
2015 122.3 1.5
2016 122.1 -0.2
2017 127.4 4.3
2018 135.6 6.4
Notes:

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source:

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Table 5: Transportation Services Indexes from Previous Years

Since May . . . Duration in years Freight TSI Percent change to May 2018 Passenger TSI Percent change to May 2018 Combined TSI Percent change to May 2018
2017 1 6.4 2.0 5.0
2016 2 11.1 3.7 8.5
2015 3 10.9 6.1 9.2
2014 4 12.5 7.3 10.8
2013 5 17.1 10.4 14.9
2012 6 20.3 12.4 17.6
2011 7 25.0 12.6 20.8
2010 8 27.7 16.1 23.8
2009 9 42.9 19.6 35.1
2008 10 21.8 10.1 17.8
Source:

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Table 6: Passenger Transportation Services Index Monthly Changes, 2015-2018

2015 2016 2017 2018
% Change % Change % Change % Change
January -0.5 -0.6 0.5 -0.7
February -0.6 1.5 -1.0 1.4
March 1.5 -2.3 0.7 0.2
April 0.2 1.2 1.0 0.4
May 0.2 0.3 -0.2 0.2
June 0.2 0.8 0.7
July 2.2 -0.6 -0.1
August -1.4 -1.1 -0.5
September 0.2 1.6 -2.4
October 1.2 -1.4 3.0
November -0.8 0.9 0.6
December 0.8 0.4 -0.7
Source:

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Table 7: Passenger Transportation Services Index from Year-to-Year

May Passenger TSI Percent change from same month previous year
2009 107.9 -8.0
2010 111.2 3.1
2011 114.7 3.1
2012 114.9 0.2
2013 116.9 1.7
2014 120.3 2.9
2015 121.7 1.2
2016 124.5 2.3
2017 126.6 1.7
2018 129.1 2.0
Notes:

 Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source:

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Table 8: Combined Transportation Services Index Monthly Changes, 2015-2018

2015 2016 2017 2018
% Change % Change % Change % Change
January -0.2 1.0 0.2 -1.5
February -0.8 -0.2 0.6 1.5
March 1.2 -1.1 -0.6 1.1
April -0.6 1.3 0.4 -0.1
May 0.2 -0.1 1.4 0.8
June -0.2 0.8 -0.2
July 1.1 0.9 1.1
August -0.3 -1.7 0.0
September 0.0 0.0 -1.1
October 0.6 0.2 2.0
November -1.4 0.7 0.8
December 0.1 0.4 0.4
Source:

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Table 9: Combined Transportation Services Index from Year-to-Year

May Combined TSI Percent change from same month previous year
2009 98.8 -12.8
2010 107.8 9.1
2011 110.5 2.5
2012 113.5 2.7
2013 116.2 2.4
2014 120.5 3.7
2015 122.2 1.4
2016 123.0 0.7
2017 127.2 3.4
2018 133.5 5.0
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).