BTS - Bureau of Transportation Statistics

03/13/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 03/13/2019 10:06

January 2019 Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI)

The level of for-hire freight shipments in January measured by the Freight TSI (136.8) was 1.2 percent below the all-time high level of 138.4 in November 2018 (Table 2A). BTS' TSI records begin in 2000. See historical TSI data.

The December 2018 index was revised upward to 136.3 from 134.2 in last month's release but remains below the November all-time high. As a result of the revisions, the 2018 annual increase in the index was 2.9 percent, revised upward from 1.4 percent in last month's release. Also, from November to December the index declined 1.6 percent, a smaller decrease than the 3.1 percent decline reported in last month's release. Monthly numbers for September through November 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: The January rise in Freight TSI was driven by increases in trucking and pipeline, while air freight, water, rail carloads and rail intermodal declined. The TSI increase took place against a background of mixed results for other indicators. The Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production index declined by 0.6 percent in January, with a decrease in manufacturing and increases in mining and utilities. Personal income declined slightly. The Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing index rose to 56.6, indicating accelerating growth.

Trend: The 0.4 percent increase in the Freight TSI in January following a decline in December, was the fifth monthly increase in six months since July 2018, for a total increase of 1.2 percent in that period. The Freight TSI has now been at or above its March 2018 level of 134.5, itself a new high, for 11 consecutive months. The index is now up 4.7 percent over its level of 12 months ago. The January index was 44.3 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 January 2019 (136.7) were 44.3 percent higher than the low in April 2009 during the recession (94.8). The January 2019 level was 1.2 percent below the historic peak reached in November 2018 (138.4) (Table 1A).

Year to date: For-hire freight shipments measured by the index were up 0.4 percent in January compared to the end of 2018 (Table 3).

Long-term trend: For-hire freight shipments are up 17.9 percent in the five years from January 2014 and are up 38.9 percent in the 10 years from January 2009 (Table 5).

Same month of previous year: January 2019 for-hire freight shipments were up 4.7 percent from January 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 February 2019 index is scheduled for April 10.

Passenger Index: The TSI for passengers rose 0.2 percent in January from its December level (Table 6). The Passenger TSI January 2019 level of 130.8 was 3.0 percent above the January 2018 level (Table 7). The index is up 11.0 percent in five years and up 19.2 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 0.4 percent in January from its December level (Table 8). The combined TSI January 2019 level of 134.9 was 4.3 percent above the January 2018 level (Table 9). The combined index is up 15.7 percent in five years and up 32.4 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 .

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