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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 2022 Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI)

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

BTS 29-22
Contact: BTS Media
Tel:  1-800-853-1351  
BTSNews@dot.gov 
 

The Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI), which is based on the amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry, rose 0.3% in May from April, rising after a one-month decline, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS). From May 2021 to May 2022 the index rose 2.6% compared to a decline of 2.0% from May 2019 to May 2021 (Tables 1, 2, and 2A).

 

The level of for-hire freight shipments in May measured by the Freight TSI (140.1) was 1.3% below the all-time high level of 142.0 in August 2019 (Table 2A). BTS’ TSI records begin in 2000. See historical TSI data

The April index was revised to 139.7 from 140.2 in last month’s release.  February was revised down slightly.

BTS is withholding the scheduled release of the passenger and combined indexes for May. The passenger index for May is a statistical estimate of airline passenger travel and other components based on historical trends up to April 2022. The statistical estimate does not fully account for the rapidly changing impacts of the coronavirus on the historical trend. Air freight for May is also a statistical estimate. Since air freight makes up a smaller part of the freight index, the freight TSI is being released as scheduled with the air freight estimate included. The April passenger and combined indexes are available on the BTS website.

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 seasonal movement, which enables month-to-month comparisons.

Analysis: The Freight TSI increased 0.3% in May from April due to seasonally adjusted increases in trucking, rail carloads, and rail intermodal, while air freight, water and pipeline declined.

The May increase came in the context of mostly positive results for several other indicators. The Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production (IP) Index grew by 0.2% in May, reflecting increases of 1.0% in utilities, and 1.3% in mining, while manufacturing was down 0.1%. Housing starts were down 14.4% while personal income increased by 0.5%.

The Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing (ISM) index was up 0.7 points to 56.1, indicating accelerating growth in manufacturing.

Although the May Passenger TSI is being withheld because of the previously cited difficulty of estimating airline passenger travel and other components, the April index is now being released. The index increased 2.5% from March to April following a decrease of 1.4% in March. Seasonally adjusted air passenger, rail passenger and transit all grew.

The Passenger TSI has now exceeded its level in March 2020 —the first month of the pandemic— for eleven months in a row but remains below its pre-pandemic level (February 2020) for the 26th consecutive month.

Trend: The May freight index increase was the eighth month-over-month increase in nine months and followed a decrease in April, for a total increase of 4.4% since August 2021. The May Freight TSI is 11.8% above the pandemic low in April 2020; it has increased in 17 of the 25 months since that low. The index is 1.3% below its record level of 142.0 set in August 2019 and has increased in 18 of the 33 months since that peak. It is at its second highest point since that record level.

For additional historical data, go to TSI data.

Index highs and lows: For-hire freight shipments in May 2022 (140.1) were 47.5% higher than the low in April 2009 during the recession (95.0). The May 2022 level was 1.3% below the historic peak reached in August 2019 (142.0) (Table 1A).

Year to date: For-hire freight shipments measured by the index were up 2.1% in May compared to the end of 2021 (Table 3).

Long-term trend: For-hire freight shipments are up 11.1% in the five years from May 2017 and are up 24.0% in the 10 years from May 2012 (Table 5).  

Same month of previous year: May 2022 for-hire freight shipments were up 2.6% from May 2021 (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 2022 index is scheduled for August 10, 2022.

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.   

For charts and discussion on the relationship of the TSI to the economy, see Transportation as an Economic Indicator: Transportation Services Index.

A BTS report explaining the TSI, Transportation Services Index and the Economy, is available for download.

Table 1: Freight Transportation Services Index since November 2021 
Percent Change from Previous Month
(Seasonally-Adjusted, Monthly Average of 2000 = 100)

 

Freight

Index

Percent change 

November

137.1

0.5

December

137.2

0.1

January

138.9

1.2

February

139.9

0.7

March

140.8

0.6

April

139.7

-0.8

May

140.1

0.3

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics. See Transportation Services Index for documentation, data and other background information.
NOTE: Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding. 
 


Table 1A: Annual High and Low Points in Freight Transportation Services Index, 2009-2022 

Year

Month of peak

Value
at peak

Month of low

Value
at low

2009

December

101.8

April

95.0

2018

November

139.7

January

131.7

2019

August

142.0

December

136.8

2020

January

136.8

April

125.3

2021

April

137.4

February

133.5

2022 (thru May)

March

140.8

January

138.9

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics. See Transportation Services Index for documentation, data and other background information.


Table 2: Freight Transportation Services Index Monthly Changes, 2019-2022
Percent change from previous month

 

2019

2020

2021

2022

Percent
change

Percent
change

Percent
change

Percent
change

January

0.9

0.0

1.5

1.2

February

-0.6

-0.1

-2.5

0.7

March

0.2

-1.0

1.8

0.6

April

0.7

-7.3

1.1

-0.8

May

0.1

1.4

-0.7

0.3

June

-0.2

1.7

-0.1

 

July

0.8

3.6

-1.2

 

August

1.4

-1.0

-0.3

 

September

-2.4

0.4

0.7

 

October

-0.1

0.5

1.0

 

November

0.1

-0.4

0.5

 

December

-1.2

1.3

0.1

 

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics. See Transportation Services Index for documentation, data and other background information.

 

Table 2A: Freight Transportation Services Index by Month, 2019-2022

 

2019

2020

2021

2022

January

138.8

136.8

136.9

138.9

February

137.9

136.6

133.5

139.9

March

138.2

135.2

135.9

140.8

April

139.1

125.3

137.4

139.7

May

139.3

127.1

136.5

140.1

June

139.0

129.2

136.3

 

July

140.1

133.8

134.6

 

August

142.0

132.5

134.2

 

September

138.6

133.0

135.1

 

October

138.4

133.7

136.4

 

November

138.5

133.2

137.1

 

December

136.8

134.9

137.2

 

 SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics. See Transportation Services Index for documentation, data and other background information.
 
Table 3: Freight Transportation Services Index Year-to-Date Change, 2013-2022
Percent change to May from December of the previous year

Year

Freight

2013

3.3

2014

2.8

2015

-0.9

2016

1.3

2017

1.0

2018

1.9

2019

1.2

2020

-7.1

2021

1.2

2022

2.1

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics. See Transportation Services Index for documentation, data and other background information.


Table 4: Freight Transportation Services Index from Year-to-Year
Percent Change in the May Freight TSI 
(Monthly average of 2000 = 100)

 

May Freight TSI

Percent change
from same month
previous year

2013

116.0

2.7

2014

121.1

4.4

2015

122.1

0.8

2016

122.3

0.2

2017

126.1

3.1

2018

136.3

8.1

2019

139.3

2.2

2020

127.1

-8.8

2021

136.5

7.4

2022

140.1

2.6

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics. See Transportation Services Index for documentation, data and other background information.
NOTE: Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

 

Table 5: Freight Transportation Services Index from Previous Years 
Percent Change to 2022 (May to May)

Since
May
 . . .

Duration
in years

Freight TSI
percent change to
May 2022

2021

1

2.6

2020

2

10.2

2019

3

0.6

2018

4

2.8

2017

5

11.1

2016

6

14.6

2015

7

14.7

2014

8

15.7

2013

9

20.8

2012

10

24.0

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics. See Transportation Services Index for documentation, data and other background information. 

 

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).