Transportation Services Index

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January 2018 Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI)

Release Number: 
BTS 15-18

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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, fell 0.4 percent in January from December, falling after reaching an all-time high in December, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS). The January 2018 index level (132.3) was 39.7 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
Jan-13114.2
Feb-13115.7
Mar-13115.5
Apr-13114.7
May-13115.8
Jun-13116.4
Jul-13115.9
Aug-13116.6
Sep-13116.7
Oct-13116.5
Nov-13119.0
Dec-13117.7
Jan-14115.8
Feb-14117.9
Mar-14119.0
Apr-14120.1
May-14120.6
Jun-14119.8
Jul-14120.4
Aug-14121.1
Sep-14121.5
Oct-14122.2
Nov-14123.4
Dec-14122.9
Jan-15122.8
Feb-15121.8
Mar-15122.5
Apr-15122.0
May-15122.4
Jun-15122.1
Jul-15122.6
Aug-15122.9
Sep-15122.7
Oct-15123.0
Nov-15121.1
Dec-15120.8
Jan-16122.8
Feb-16121.6
Mar-16120.0
Apr-16122.4
May-16122.2
Jun-16123.4
Jul-16125.1
Aug-16122.7
Sep-16121.7
Oct-16123.0
Nov-16123.8
Dec-16124.5
Jan-17124.5
Feb-17126.1
Mar-17123.7
Apr-17124.7
May-17127.6
Jun-17126.8
Jul-17129.0
Aug-17129.2
Sep-17128.7
Oct-17130.7
Nov-17131.8
Dec-17132.8
Jan-18132.3
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

The level of for-hire freight shipments in January measured by the Freight TSI (132.3) was the second highest all-time level, 0.4 percent below the all-time high of 132.8 one month earlier in December 2017 (Table 2A). BTS’ TSI records begin in 2000. See historical TSI data.

The December 2017 index was revised to 132.8 from 132.0 in last month’s release.  Monthly numbers for March through November 2017 were revised up 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: Decreases in rail carloads, rail intermodal, pipeline and water resulted in the January decline of 0.4 percent while trucking and air freight increased. The TSI decline was consistent with the Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production index, which dropped by 0.1 percent in January, led by a fall in mining. However, a range of other indicators, including employment, Personal Income  and Housing Starts grew in January. The Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing index fell to 59.1, indicating positive but decelerating growth.

Trend: Despite the 0.4 percent decline from the all-time high of 132.8 in December, the January Freight TSI remained at its second highest level of 132.3. The decline followed three successive monthly increases during which the index rose 2.8 percent from September through January. For the year from January 2017, the index rose 6.3 percent. The January index was 39.7 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 2018 (132.3) were 39.7 percent higher than the low in April 2009 during the recession (94.7). The January 2018 level was 0.4 percent below the historic peak reached in December 2017 (132.8) (Table 1A).

Year to date: For-hire freight shipments measured by the index were down 0.4 percent in January compared to the end of 2017 (Table 3).

Long-term trend: For-hire freight shipments are up 15.8 percent in the five years from January 2013 and are up 16.9 percent in the 10 years from January 2008 (Table 5). 

Same month of previous year: January 2018 for-hire freight shipments were up 6.3 percent from January 2017 (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 2018 index is scheduled for April 11.

Passenger Index: The TSI for passengers rose 0.7 percent in January from its December level (Table 6). The Passenger TSI January 2018 level of 128.5 was 2.1 percent above the January 2017 level (Table 7). The index is up 9.7 percent in five years and up 10.2 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 fell 0.1 percent in January from its December level (Table 8). The combined TSI January 2018 level of 131.1 was 4.9 percent above the January 2017 level (Table 9). The combined index is up 13.9 percent in five years and up 14.5 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.

Percent Change from Previous Month, (Seasonally Adjusted, Monthly Average of 2000 = 100)
FreightPassengerCombined
IndexPct. Change IndexPct. Change IndexPct. Change
July129.01.7127.5-0.2128.61.1
August129.20.2126.8-0.5128.5-0.1
September128.7-0.4123.9-2.3127.2-1.0
October130.71.6127.63.0129.82.0
November131.80.8128.40.6130.80.8
December132.80.8127.6-0.6131.20.3
January132.3-0.4128.50.7131.1-0.1
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

YearMonthPeakMonthBottom
2009June101.5April94.7
2014November123.4May115.8
2015October123.0December120.8
2016July125.1March120.0
2017December132.8March123.7
2018(thru January)January132.3January132.3
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from previous month
2015201620172018
% Change% Change% Change% Change
January-0.11.70.0-0.4
February-0.8-1.01.3
March0.6-1.3-1.9
April-0.42.00.8
May0.3-0.22.3
June-0.21.0-0.6
July0.41.41.7
August0.2-1.90.2
September-0.2-0.8-0.4
October0.21.11.6
November-1.50.70.8
December-0.20.60.8
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

2015201620172018
January122.8122.8124.5132.3
February121.8121.6126.1
March122.5120.0123.7
April122.0122.4124.7
May122.4122.2127.6
June122.1123.4126.8
July122.6125.1129.0
August122.9122.7129.2
September122.7121.7128.7
October123.0123.0130.7
November121.1123.8131.8
December120.8124.5132.8
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change to January from December of the previous year
YearFreightPassengerCombined
2009-1.9-0.6-1.5
20101.50.11.1
20111.00.10.7
2012-3.2-0.3-2.3
20131.81.01.5
2014-1.60.0-1.1
2015-0.1-0.6-0.3
20161.7-0.70.9
20170.00.20.1
2018-0.40.7-0.1
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the January Freight TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
January Freight TSIPercent change from same month previous year
200998.5-13.0
2010103.04.6
2011109.86.6
2012111.41.5
2013114.22.5
2014115.81.4
2015122.86.0
2016122.80.0
2017124.51.4
2018132.36.3
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent Change to 2018 (January to January)
Since January . . .Duration in yearsFreight TSI Percent change to January 2018Passenger TSI Percent change to January 2018Combined TSI Percent change to January 2018
201716.32.14.9
201627.73.96.4
201537.77.07.5
2014414.29.112.5
2013515.89.713.9
2012618.811.516.4
2011720.513.518.2
2010828.416.324.5
2009934.317.128.8
20081016.910.214.5
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from previous month
2015201620172018
% Change% Change% Change% Change
January-0.6-0.70.20.7
February-0.91.0-1.4
March1.9-1.81.2
April0.21.31.3
May0.20.2-0.2
June0.20.90.8
July2.1-0.6-0.2
August-1.4-1.2-0.5
September0.31.8-2.3
October1.1-1.43.0
November-0.90.90.6
December0.90.5-0.6
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the January Passenger TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
January Passenger TSIPercent change from same month previous year
2009109.7-5.9
2010110.50.7
2011113.22.4
2012115.21.8
2013117.11.6
2014117.80.6
2015120.12.0
2016123.73.0
2017125.81.7
2018128.52.1
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from previous month
2015201620172018
% Change% Change% Change% Change
January-0.30.90.1-0.1
February-0.8-0.30.4
March1.0-1.5-1.0
April-0.21.81.0
May0.30.01.5
June-0.10.9-0.2
July0.90.71.1
August-0.2-1.7-0.1
September-0.10.0-1.0
October0.60.32.0
November-1.30.70.8
December0.10.50.3
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the January Combined TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
January Combined TSIPercent change from same month previous year
2009101.8-11.1
2010105.33.4
2011110.95.3
2012112.61.5
2013115.12.2
2014116.51.2
2015122.04.7
2016123.21.0
2017125.01.5
2018131.14.9
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).

Updated: Wednesday, March 21, 2018