US Freight Transportation Services Index Hit All-Time High in May
The Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI), which is based on the amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry, rose 2.2 percent in May from April, rising after a two-month decline, according to the US Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS). The May 2017 index level (126.8), released last week, was 33.9 percent above the April 2009 low during the most recent recession.
The 2.2 percent gain from April to May was the largest month-to-month increase since the index rose 2.9 percent from November to December 2011. BTS’ TSI records begin in 2000.
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.
The TSI includes only domestic for-hire transportation operated on behalf of or by a company that provides freight or passenger transport services to external customers for a fee. According to BTS, for-hire transportation services constitute about 73 percent of total transportation services. The freight transportation index consists of for-hire trucking, railroad freight services, inland waterways transportation, pipeline transportation, and air freight. It does not include international or coastal waterborne movements, private trucking, courier services, or the US Postal Service.
The May increase in the Freight TSI was broad based with gains in most modes, especially water and pipeline, while air freight and trucking were stable. The increase took place despite mixed performance in other indicators in May. Employment and Personal Income both grew in May, and the Institute for Supply Management’s Purchasing Managers’ Index showed positive and accelerating growth. However, housing starts declined, and the Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production index was unchanged, with a decline in manufacturing offset by increases in mining and utility output.
The Freight TSI all-time high of 126.8 in May was the second time in four months but only the third time overall that the Freight TSI has exceeded 125.0. An index level of more than 125 indicates that the magnitude of freight transportation provided by the for-hire transportation industry, as measured by the TSI, was 25 percent higher than freight shipments in the base year of 2000. The new high was 0.6 percent above the previous peak of 126.0 in February 2017.
For-hire freight shipments are up 12.5 percent in the five years from May 2012 and are up 15.0 percent in the 10 years from May 2007.
May 2017 for-hire freight shipments were up 4.2 percent from May 2016. The 4.2 percent gain from May 2016 to May 2017 was the largest year-to-year rise since the index rose 5.9 percent from January 2014 to January 2015.