Transportation Services Index

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May 2019 Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI)

Release Number: 
BTS 28-19
Date: Thursday, July 11, 2019

The Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI), which is based on the amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry, fell 0.7% in May from April, falling for the second consecutive month. From May 2018 to May 2019, the index declined 0.2% compared to a rise of 8.6% for the previous year (Tables 1, 2, and 2A).

The level of for-hire freight shipments in May measured by the Freight TSI (135.4) was 2.4% below the all-time high level of 138.7 in November 2018 (Table 2A). BTS’ TSI records begin in 2000. See historical TSI data.

 
(Seasonally Adjusted, Monthly Average of 2000 = 100)
MonthFreight TSI
May-14120.9
Jun-14119.8
Jul-14120.4
Aug-14120.9
Sep-14121.8
Oct-14122.6
Nov-14123.2
Dec-14123.1
Jan-15122.9
Feb-15121.7
Mar-15122.5
Apr-15121.5
May-15121.8
Jun-15121.3
Jul-15122.4
Aug-15123.0
Sep-15122.9
Oct-15122.5
Nov-15120.8
Dec-15120.3
Jan-16122.0
Feb-16121.4
Mar-16120.2
Apr-16122.3
May-16121.7
Jun-16122.3
Jul-16125.2
Aug-16122.9
Sep-16121.6
Oct-16122.6
Nov-16123.2
Dec-16124.0
Jan-17123.7
Feb-17124.5
Mar-17124.4
Apr-17124.7
May-17124.9
Jun-17125.2
Jul-17127.6
Aug-17128.3
Sep-17127.6
Oct-17129.2
Nov-17131.2
Dec-17132.3
Jan-18130.3
Feb-18132.8
Mar-18134.6
Apr-18134.5
May-18135.7
Jun-18136.3
Jul-18135.3
Aug-18135.3
Sep-18136.3
Oct-18137.9
Nov-18138.7
Dec-18136.2
Jan-19137.4
Feb-19135.6
Mar-19136.5
Apr-19136.3
May-19135.4
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

The April index was revised to 136.3 from 138.4 in last month’s release. The March index was revised up 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 May decline in the Freight TSI was driven by decreases in rail carloads, rail intermodal, trucking, and water, while air freight and pipeline increased. The TSI decline took place against a background of growth for other indicators. The Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production index increased by 0.4% in May, with growth in all sectors. Personal income increased by 0.5%, while housing starts grew by 0.3%. The Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing index declined from 52.8 in April to 52.1 in May, indicating continued but decelerating growth.

Trend: With the decline of 0.7% in May, the index fell for the second consecutive month, the third time in four months and the fourth time in six months for a total drop of 2.4% since peaking in November 2018. The November high followed an increase of 6.5% in the 10 months since January 2018, and of 14.1% percent in the 27 months since September 2016. The index is down 0.2% from May 2018 but up 8.4% from May 2017 and up 11.3% from May 2016. The May index was 42.8% 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 2019 (135.4) were 42.8% higher than the low in April 2009 during the recession (94.8). The May 2019 level was 2.4% below the historic peak reached in November 2018 (138.7) (Table 1A).

Year to date: For-hire freight shipments measured by the index were down 0.6% in May compared to the end of 2018 (Table 3).

Long-term trend: For-hire freight shipments are up 12.0% in the five years from May 2014 and are up 42.7% in the 10 years from May 2009 (Table 5). 

Same month of previous year: May 2019 for-hire freight shipments were down 0.2% from May 2018 (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 2019 index is scheduled for Aug. 14.

Passenger Index: The TSI for passengers rose 0.4% in May from its April level (Table 6).  The Passenger TSI May 2019 level of 133.3 was 2.2% above the May 2018 level (Table 7). The index is up 10.8% in five years and up 23.5% 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 0.3% in May from its April level (Table 8). The combined TSI May 2019 level of 134.8 was 0.6% above the May 2018 level (Table 9). The combined index is up 11.6% in five years and up 36.4% 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
November138.70.6131.20.0136.20.4
December136.2-1.8130.5-0.5134.4-1.3
January137.40.9130.50.0135.20.6
February135.6-1.3130.3-0.2133.9-1.0
March136.50.7134.43.1135.81.4
April136.3-0.1132.8-1.2135.2-0.4
May135.4-0.7133.30.4134.8-0.3
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

YearMonthPeakMonthBottom
2009December101.6April94.8
2015August123.0December120.3
2016July125.2March120.2
2017December132.3January123.7
2018November138.7January130.3
2019(thru May)January137.4May135.4
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from previous month
2016201720182019
% Change% Change% Change% Change
January1.4-0.2-1.50.9
February-0.50.61.9-1.3
March-1.0-0.11.40.7
April1.70.2-0.1-0.1
May-0.50.20.9-0.7
June0.50.20.4
July2.41.9-0.7
August-1.80.50.0
September-1.1-0.50.7
October0.81.31.2
November0.51.50.6
December0.60.8-1.8
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

2016201720182019
January122.0123.7130.3137.4
February121.4124.5132.8135.6
March120.2124.4134.6136.5
April122.3124.7134.5136.3
May121.7124.9135.7135.4
June122.3125.2136.3
July125.2127.6135.3
August122.9128.3135.3
September121.6127.6136.3
October122.6129.2137.9
November123.2131.2138.7
December124.0132.3136.2
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change to May from December of the previous year
YearFreightPassengerCombined
20104.60.73.5
2011-0.11.40.4
2012-2.0-0.7-1.6
20133.20.92.5
20142.72.22.5
2015-1.10.8-0.5
20161.2-0.20.7
20170.70.70.7
20182.62.02.4
2019-0.62.10.3
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the May Freight TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
May Freight TSIPercent change from same month previous year
2010106.312.0
2011108.62.2
2012112.73.8
2013115.82.8
2014120.94.4
2015121.80.7
2016121.7-0.1
2017124.92.6
2018135.78.6
2019135.4-0.2
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent Change to 2019 (May to May)
Since May . . .Duration in yearsFreight TSI Percent change to May 2019Passenger TSI Percent change to May 2019Combined TSI Percent change to May 2019
20181-0.22.20.6
201728.45.57.4
2016311.37.210.0
2015411.29.510.7
2014512.010.811.6
2013616.914.016.0
2012720.116.018.9
2011824.716.222.0
2010927.419.925.0
20091042.723.536.4
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from previous month
2016201720182019
% Change% Change% Change% Change
January-0.40.9-0.20.0
February1.3-1.31.1-0.2
March-2.30.5-0.13.1
April1.01.10.6-1.2
May0.3-0.40.60.4
June0.60.40.9
July-0.50.2-0.1
August-1.0-0.2-0.3
September1.8-2.4-2.4
October-1.53.02.6
November0.90.50.0
December0.6-0.3-0.5
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the May Passenger TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
May Passenger TSIPercent change from same month previous year
2010111.23.1
2011114.73.1
2012114.90.2
2013116.91.7
2014120.32.9
2015121.71.2
2016124.42.2
2017126.41.6
2018130.43.2
2019133.32.2
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from previous month
2016201720182019
% Change% Change% Change% Change
January0.80.1-1.10.6
February0.10.01.7-1.0
March-1.50.10.81.4
April1.50.60.2-0.4
May-0.20.00.8-0.3
June0.60.30.6
July1.41.3-0.5
August-1.50.2-0.1
September-0.1-1.1-0.3
October0.01.81.6
November0.71.20.4
December0.60.5-1.3
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the May Combined TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
May Combined TSIPercent change from same month previous year
2010107.89.1
2011110.52.5
2012113.42.6
2013116.22.5
2014120.84.0
2015121.80.8
2016122.60.7
2017125.52.4
2018134.06.8
2019134.80.6
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, July 11, 2019