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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

November 2021 Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI)

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

BTS 01-22

 

The Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI), which is based on the amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry, rose 0.6% to 136.9 in November 2021 from October, the third consecutive month of increase, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS). For-hire freight does not include the operations of fleets owned by retailers or other non-transportation companies referred to as private fleets

From November 2020 to November 2021, the index rose 3.0% compared to a decline of 3.9% from November 2019 to November 2020 (Tables 1, 2, and 2A). It remains down 1.0% from pre-pandemic November 2019’s 138.3. The level of for-hire freight shipments in November measured by the Freight TSI was also 3.6% below the all-time high level of 142.0 in August 2019 (Table 2A). BTS’ TSI records begin in 2000. See historical TSI data.

 

The October index was revised to 136.1 from 135.7 in last month’s release. Monthly numbers for January and August were revised up slightly. February and July were revised down slightly.

BTS is withholding the scheduled release of the passenger and combined indexes for November. The passenger index for November is a statistical estimate of airline passenger travel and other components based on historical trends up to October 2021. The statistical estimate does not fully account for the rapidly changing impacts of the coronavirus on the historical trend. Air freight for October and November are also statistical estimates. Since air freight makes up a smaller part of the freight index, the freight TSI is being released as scheduled with the air freight estimate included. The October passenger and combined indexes are available on the BTS website.

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 seasonal movement, which enables month-to-month comparisons.

Analysis: The Freight TSI increased 0.6% in November from October due to seasonally-adjusted increases in trucking, air freight, and water and decreases in pipeline, rail carloads, and rail intermodal.

The November increase came in the context of growth for other indicators. The Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production (IP) Index grew 0.5% in October, reflecting increases of 0.7% in manufacturing and 0.7% in mining, while utilities declined by 0.8%. Housing starts were up 11.8%. Personal income increased by 0.4%.

The Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing (ISM) index was up 0.3 points to 61.1, indicating continued growth in manufacturing.

Although the November Passenger TSI is being withheld because of the previously cited difficulty of estimating airline passenger travel and other components, the October index is now being released. The index increased 2.8% from September to October following an increase of 3.3% in September. Seasonally adjusted, transit, air passenger and rail passenger all grew.

The Passenger TSI has now exceeded its level in March 2020 —the first month of the pandemic— for five months in a row but remains below its pre-pandemic level (February 2020) for the 20th consecutive month.

Trend: The November freight index increase was the third increase following four consecutive months of decline. This was the fifth increase in nine months for a net increase of 2.7% over the nine months since February 2021. The November Freight TSI is 9.3% above the pandemic low in April 2020. The index is 3.6% below its record level of 142.0 in August 2019 and has increased in 13 of the 27 months since that peak.

For additional historical data, please visit TSI data.

Index highs and lows: For-hire freight shipments in November 2021 (136.9) were 44.1% higher than the low in April 2009 during the recession (95.0). The November 2021 level was 3.6% below the historic peak reached in August 2019 (142.0) (Table 1A).

Year to date: For-hire freight shipments measured by the index were up 1.4% in November compared to the end of 2020 (Table 3).

Long-term trend: For-hire freight shipments are up 10.9% in the five years from November 2016 and are up 22.2% in the 10 years from November 2011 (Table 5). 

Same month of previous year: November 2021 for-hire freight shipments were up 3.0% from November 2020 (Tables 4, 5).

The TSI has three seasonally-adjusted indices that measure changes from the monthly average of the base year of 2000. The three indices 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 2021 index is scheduled for Wednesday, February 9.

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 charts and discussion on the relationship of the TSI to the economy, see Transportation as an Economic Indicator: Transportation Services Index.

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

 

 

Table 1: Freight Transportation Services Index since May 2021
Percent Change from Previous Month
(Seasonally-Adjusted, Monthly Average of 2000 = 100)

 

Freight

Index

Pct. Change 

May

137.0

-0.4

June

136.5

-0.4

July

134.7

-1.3

August

134.2

-0.4

September

135.0

0.6

October

136.1

0.8

November

136.9

0.6

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics. See Transportation Services Index for documentation, data and other background information.

NOTE: Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

 

Table 1A: Annual High and Low Points in Freight Transportation Services Index, 2009-2021

Year

 

Month

Peak

Month

Bottom

2009

December

101.8

April

95.0

2017

December

133.7

January

124.0

2018

November

139.6

January

131.7

2019

August

142.0

   December

136.8

2020

January

136.7

April

125.2

2021

(thru November)

April

137.5

February

133.3

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics. See Transportation Services Index for documentation, data and other background information.

 

Table 2: Freight Transportation Services Index Monthly Changes, 2018-2021
Percent change from previous month

 

2018

2019

2020

2021

 

% Change

% Change

% Change

% Change

January

-1.5

0.8

-0.1

1.4

February

1.8

-0.6

-0.3

-2.6

March

1.0

0.1

-1.0

1.8

April

0.0

0.8

-7.2

1.3

May

0.8

0.4

1.6

-0.4

June

0.6

-0.4

1.7

-0.4

July

-0.9

0.7

3.5

-1.3

August

0.3

1.3

-1.1

-0.4

September

1.5

-2.4

0.4

0.6

October

0.4

-0.2

0.4

0.8

November

0.3

0.0

-0.3

0.6

December

-1.4

-1.1

1.6

 

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics. See Transportation Services Index for documentation, data and other background information.

 

Table 2A: Freight Transportation Services Index by Month, 2018-2021

 

2018

2019

2020

2021

January

131.7

138.7

136.7

136.9

February

134.1

137.9

136.3

133.3

March

135.5

138.0

134.9

135.7

April

135.5

139.1

125.2

137.5

May

136.6

139.7

127.2

137.0

June

137.4

139.2

129.3

136.5

July

136.2

140.2

133.8

134.7

August

136.6

142.0

132.3

134.2

September

138.6

138.6

132.8

135.0

October

139.2

138.3

133.3

136.1

November

139.6

138.3

132.9

136.9

December

137.6

136.8

135.0

 

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics. See Transportation Services Index for documentation, data and other background information.

 

Table 3: Freight Transportation Services Index Year-to-Date Change, 2012-2021
Percent change to November from December of the previous year

Year

Freight

2012

-2.5

2013

6.0

2014

4.8

2015

-1.7

2016

2.4

2017

5.9

2018

4.4

2019

0.5

2020

-2.9

2021

1.4

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics. See Transportation Services Index for documentation, data and other background information.

 

Table 4: Freight Transportation Services Index from Year-to-Year
Percent Change in the November Freight TSI
(Monthly average of 2000 = 100)

 

November Freight TSI

Percent change from same month previous year

2012

112.2

0.2

2013

119.0

6.1

2014

123.4

3.7

2015

121.1

-1.9

2016

123.5

2.0

2017

132.1

7.0

2018

139.6

5.7

2019

138.3

-0.9

2020

132.9

-3.9

2021

136.9

3.0

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics. See Transportation Services Index for documentation, data and other background information.

NOTE: Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

 

Table 5: Freight Transportation Services Index from Previous Years
Percent Change to 2021 (November to November)

Since November        . . .

Duration in years

Freight TSI Percent change to November 2021

 

2020

1

3.0

 

2019

2

-1.0

 

2018

3

-1.9

 

2017

4

3.6

 

2016

5

10.9

 

2015

6

13.0

 

2014

7

10.9

 

2013

8

15.0

 

2012

9

22.0

 

2011

10

22.2

 

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics. See Transportation Services Index for documentation, data and other background information.

 

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).

 

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