Transportation Services Index

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November 2017 Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI)

Release Number: 
BTS 03-18

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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, reached an all-time high in November, rising 0.2 percent in November from October, growing for the second consecutive month, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS). The November 2017 index level (130.8) was 38.1 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
Nov-12112.2
Dec-12112.2
Jan-13114.1
Feb-13115.7
Mar-13115.6
Apr-13114.7
May-13115.9
Jun-13116.3
Jul-13115.9
Aug-13116.6
Sep-13116.7
Oct-13116.4
Nov-13119.0
Dec-13117.9
Jan-14115.7
Feb-14117.9
Mar-14119.1
Apr-14120.1
May-14120.7
Jun-14119.7
Jul-14120.3
Aug-14121.1
Sep-14121.4
Oct-14122.2
Nov-14123.4
Dec-14123.1
Jan-15122.7
Feb-15121.6
Mar-15122.6
Apr-15121.9
May-15122.5
Jun-15122.0
Jul-15122.5
Aug-15122.8
Sep-15122.5
Oct-15122.8
Nov-15120.9
Dec-15120.9
Jan-16122.4
Feb-16121.4
Mar-16120.0
Apr-16122.2
May-16122.2
Jun-16123.0
Jul-16124.9
Aug-16122.3
Sep-16121.4
Oct-16122.7
Nov-16123.6
Dec-16124.6
Jan-17124.4
Feb-17126.3
Mar-17124.0
Apr-17124.6
May-17127.6
Jun-17126.7
Jul-17128.9
Aug-17129.2
Sep-17128.6
Oct-17130.5
Nov-17130.8
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

The level of for-hire freight shipments in November measured by the Freight TSI (130.8) reached its all-time high (Table 2A). BTS’ TSI records begin in 2000. See historical TSI data.

The October index was revised to 130.5 from 129.2 in last month’s release. Monthly numbers for April through September were revised up slightly and March were revised down 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: Notable increases in trucking, rail carloads, rail intermodal, and air freight led the November increase of 0.2 percent while water and pipeline declined. The TSI increase took place against a background of strong results for other indicators. The Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production index rose by 0.2 percent in November, with increases in manufacturing and mining. Employment rose, Personal income grew and Housing Starts increased. The Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing index declined to 58.2, indicating positive but decelerating growth.

Trend: The Freight TSI’s new all-time high of 130.8 in November was 0.2 percent above the previous all-time high set in October and 4.7 percent above the level of July 2016 (124.9), which was the highest level prior to 2017. November was the second all-time high in a row, and the sixth in 2017. The seven months from May to November 2017 were the seven highest levels the Freight TSI has ever attained. The Freight TSI was at or above 124.0 in every month of 2017, a level it reached in only two months prior to 2017. The November index was 38.1 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 November 2017 (130.8) were 38.1 percent higher than the low in April 2009 during the recession (94.7). The November 2017 level reached its all-time high (Table 1A).

Year to date: For-hire freight shipments measured by the index were up 5.0 percent in November compared to the end of 2016 (Table 3).

Long-term trend: For-hire freight shipments are up 16.6 percent in the five years from November 2012 and are up 18.3 percent in the 10 years from November 2007 (Table 5). 

Same month of previous year: November 2017 for-hire freight shipments were up 5.8 percent from November 2016 (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 December 2017 index is scheduled for Feb. 14.

Passenger Index: The TSI for passengers rose 0.2 percent in November from its October level (Table 6). The Passenger TSI November 2017 level of 127.2 was 1.9 percent above the November 2016 level (Table 7). The index is up 9.9 percent in five years and up 8.4 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 rose 0.2 percent in November from its October level (Table 8). The combined TSI November 2017 level of 129.8 was 4.7 percent above the November 2016 level (Table 9). The combined index is up 14.6 percent in five years and up 15.1 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 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 a webinar on the TSI, see Past Webinars. 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
May127.62.4126.5-0.2127.41.6
June126.7-0.7127.40.7127.0-0.3
July128.91.7127.2-0.2128.51.2
August129.20.2126.5-0.6128.4-0.1
September128.6-0.5123.6-2.3127.1-1.0
October130.51.5127.02.8129.51.9
November130.80.2127.20.2129.80.2
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

YearMonthPeakMonthBottom
2009December101.6April94.7
2013November119.0January114.1
2014November123.4February115.7
2015August122.8November120.9
2016July124.9March120.0
2017(thru November)November130.8March124.0
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from previous month
2014201520162017
% Change% Change% Change% Change
January-1.9-0.31.2-0.2
February1.9-0.9-0.81.5
March1.00.8-1.2-1.8
April0.8-0.61.80.5
May0.50.50.02.4
June-0.8-0.40.7-0.7
July0.50.41.51.7
August0.70.2-2.10.2
September0.2-0.2-0.7-0.5
October0.70.21.11.5
November1.0-1.50.70.2
December-0.20.00.8
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

2014201520162017
January115.7122.7122.4124.4
February117.9121.6121.4126.3
March119.1122.6120.0124.0
April120.1121.9122.2124.6
May120.7122.5122.2127.6
June119.7122.0123.0126.7
July120.3122.5124.9128.9
August121.1122.8122.3129.2
September121.4122.5121.4128.6
October122.2122.8122.7130.5
November123.4120.9123.6130.8
December123.1120.9124.6
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change to November from December of the previous year
YearFreightPassengerCombined
2008-5.8-4.9-5.6
20090.8-1.10.2
20105.63.14.9
20112.81.92.6
2012-2.50.1-1.7
20136.12.34.9
20144.71.73.8
2015-1.82.3-0.5
20162.20.41.6
20175.01.73.9
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the November Freight TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
November Freight TSIPercent change from same month previous year
2008104.3-5.7
2009101.2-3.0
2010107.36.0
2011111.94.3
2012112.20.3
2013119.06.1
2014123.43.7
2015120.9-2.0
2016123.62.2
2017130.85.8
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent Change to 2017 (November to November)
Since November . . .Duration in yearsFreight TSI Percent change to November 2017Passenger TSI Percent change to November 2017Combined TSI Percent change to November 2017
201615.81.94.7
201528.23.06.6
201436.06.26.0
201349.97.39.1
2012516.69.914.6
2011616.910.414.9
2010721.911.818.8
2009829.216.525.3
2008925.415.022.1
20071018.38.415.1
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from previous month
2014201520162017
% Change% Change% Change% Change
January0.0-0.6-0.60.3
February0.2-0.81.0-1.4
March1.61.9-1.81.1
April-0.20.21.21.3
May0.60.20.3-0.2
June-0.90.20.80.7
July0.32.2-0.6-0.2
August0.7-1.6-1.2-0.6
September-0.30.31.7-2.3
October0.21.1-1.42.8
November-0.4-0.71.00.2
December0.80.60.2
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the November Passenger TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
November Passenger TSIPercent change from same month previous year
2008110.6-5.7
2009109.2-1.3
2010113.84.2
2011115.21.2
2012115.70.4
2013118.62.5
2014119.81.0
2015123.53.1
2016124.81.1
2017127.21.9
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from previous month
2014201520162017
% Change% Change% Change% Change
January-1.3-0.40.7-0.1
February1.4-0.8-0.20.6
March1.21.1-1.4-0.9
April0.5-0.21.70.7
May0.60.40.11.6
June-0.8-0.30.7-0.3
July0.41.00.91.2
August0.7-0.3-1.8-0.1
September0.10.00.0-1.0
October0.50.50.31.9
November0.6-1.30.70.2
December0.00.20.7
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the November Combined TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
November Combined TSIPercent change from same month previous year
2008106.3-5.8
2009103.6-2.5
2010109.35.5
2011113.03.4
2012113.30.3
2013119.05.0
2014122.42.9
2015121.8-0.5
2016124.01.8
2017129.84.7
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).