BTS - Bureau of Transportation Statistics

01/09/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 01/09/2020 09:37

November 2019 Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI)

The level of for-hire freight shipments in November measured by the Freight TSI (137.4) was 2.0% below the all-time high level of 140.2 in August 2019 (Table 2A). BTS' TSI records begin in 2000. See historical TSI data.

The October index was revised to 137.3 from 138.6 in last month's release but still remains above September. August was revised up slightly and July was 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: The November Freight TSI 0.1% rise was narrowly based with increases only in pipeline and rail carloads, with trucking, water, air freight, and rail intermodal declining. The TSI increase took place against a background of strong results for several other indicators and sustained weakness in one. The Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production Index increased in November, reflecting increases in manufacturing and utilities and a small decrease in mining. Personal income increased by 0.5%, while housing starts increased by 3.2%. The Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing index decreased 0.2 points to 48.1, indicating contraction in the manufacturing sector for the fourth consecutive month. The ISM manufacturing index is based on a survey of 800 supply chain executives, on production, orders, deliveries, and employment, while the Federal Reserve IP index is based on estimated physical output using a range of output measures that the Federal Reserve considers reliable.

Trend: The November index was at the same relatively high level as January 2019 despite dips during the early part of the year and a rise to a record level in August. The November index was higher than all but two months prior to 2019. It was exceeded by only October 2018 and November 2018 and five earlier months in 2019. The Freight TSI rose 16.8% from the recent low of 120.0 in March 2016 to a level of 140.2 in August 2019 but has declined by 2.0% since then. The November 2019 index was 44.9% 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 2019 (137.4) were 44.9% higher than the low in April 2009 during the recession (94.8). The November 2019 level was 2.0% below the historic peak reached in August 2019 (140.2) (Table 1A).

Year-to-date: For-hire freight shipments measured by the index were up 1.0% in November compared to the end of 2018 (Table 3).

Long-term trend: For-hire freight shipments are up 11.7% in the five years from November 2014 and are up 35.8% in the 10 years from November 2009 (Table 5).

Same month of previous year: November 2019 for-hire freight shipments were down 0.8% from November 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 December 2019 index is scheduled for Feb. 12.

Passenger Index: The TSI for passengers rose 0.5% in November from its October level (Table 6). The Passenger TSI November 2019 level of 133.8 was 2.8% above the November 2018 level (Table 7). The index is up 12.4% in five years and up 23.3% 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% in November from its October level (Table 8). The combined TSI November 2019 level of 135.8 was 0.5% above the November 2018 level (Table 9). The combined index is up 12.0% in five years and up 31.6% 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.