Transportation Services Index

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October 2017 Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI)

Release Number: 
BTS 58-17

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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, reached an all-time high in October, rising 0.6 percent in October from September, after a one-month decline, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS). The October 2017 index level (129.2) was 36.4 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
Oct-12110.2
Nov-12112.1
Dec-12112.2
Jan-13114.2
Feb-13115.7
Mar-13115.8
Apr-13114.7
May-13115.8
Jun-13116.3
Jul-13115.8
Aug-13116.6
Sep-13116.7
Oct-13116.4
Nov-13118.9
Dec-13117.9
Jan-14115.8
Feb-14117.9
Mar-14119.5
Apr-14120.1
May-14120.6
Jun-14119.7
Jul-14120.3
Aug-14121.1
Sep-14121.4
Oct-14122.2
Nov-14123.3
Dec-14123.1
Jan-15122.7
Feb-15121.6
Mar-15123.1
Apr-15121.9
May-15122.4
Jun-15122.0
Jul-15122.4
Aug-15122.7
Sep-15122.4
Oct-15122.8
Nov-15120.9
Dec-15120.8
Jan-16122.4
Feb-16121.4
Mar-16120.6
Apr-16122.2
May-16122.0
Jun-16123.0
Jul-16124.8
Aug-16122.2
Sep-16121.3
Oct-16122.7
Nov-16123.6
Dec-16124.6
Jan-17124.4
Feb-17126.2
Mar-17124.7
Apr-17124.5
May-17127.5
Jun-17126.6
Jul-17128.8
Aug-17129.0
Sep-17128.4
Oct-17129.2
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

The level of for-hire freight shipments in October measured by the Freight TSI (129.2) reached an all-time high, 0.2 percent above the previous high reached in August (129.0) (Table 2A). BTS’ TSI records begin in 2000. See historical TSI data.  

The September index was revised to 128.4 from 129.2 in last month’s release. March was revised up slightly; all other months remained unchanged.

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: Significant increases in trucking, rail carloads, rail intermodal, and water led the October increase of 0.6 percent while air freight declined and pipeline was stable. The TSI increase took place against a background of strong results for other indicators. The Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production index rose by 0.9 percent in October, with increases in manufacturing and utilities. Employment rose, Personal income grew and Housing Starts increased. The Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing index declined to 58.7, indicating positive but decelerating growth.

Trend: The Freight TSI’s new all-time high of 129.2 in October was 0.2 percent above the previous all-time high set in August and 3.5 percent above the level of July 2016 (124.8), which was the highest level prior to 2017. October was the third all-time high in four months, and the fourth in six months. The four months from August to November 2017 were the four highest levels Freight TSI has ever attained. The Freight TSI was above 124.0 in every month of 2017, a level it exceeded in only two months prior to 2017. The increase of 0.6 percent in October offset the decline of 0.5 percent from August to September as revised, and followed increases in July and August. The total increase from June 2017 to October was 2.1 percent. The October index was 36.4 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 October 2017 (129.2) were 36.4 percent higher than the low in April 2009 during the recession (94.7). The October 2017 level reached its all-time high (Table 1A).

Year to date: For-hire freight shipments measured by the index were up 3.7 percent in October compared to the end of 2016 (Table 3).

Long-term trend: For-hire freight shipments are up 17.2 percent in the five years from October 2012 and are up 16.6 percent in the 10 years from October 2007 (Table 5). 

Same month of previous year: October 2017 for-hire freight shipments were up 5.3 percent from October 2016 (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 November 2017 index is scheduled for Jan. 10.

Passenger Index: The TSI for passengers fell 4.2 percent in October from its September level (Table 6). The Passenger TSI October 2017 level of 122.3 was 1.2 percent below the October 2016 level (Table 7). The index is up 7.9 percent in five years and up 5.1 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 0.9 percent in October from its September level (Table 8). The combined TSI October 2017 level of 127.1 was 3.2 percent above the October 2016 level (Table 9). The combined index is up 14.3 percent in five years and up 12.8 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.   

For a webinar on the TSI, see Past Webinars. 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
April124.5-0.2126.81.4125.30.3
May127.52.4126.5-0.2127.31.6
June126.6-0.7127.40.7126.9-0.3
July128.81.7127.2-0.2128.41.2
August129.00.2126.4-0.6128.3-0.1
September128.4-0.5127.60.9128.2-0.1
October129.20.6122.3-4.2127.1-0.9
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

YearMonthPeakMonthBottom
2009December101.6April94.7
2013November118.9January114.2
2014November123.3March115.8
2015December123.1December120.8
2016July124.8May120.6
2017(thru October)October129.2January124.4
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from previous month
2014201520162017
% Change% Change% Change% Change
January-1.8-0.31.3-0.2
February1.8-0.9-0.81.4
March1.41.2-0.7-1.2
April0.5-1.01.3-0.2
May0.40.4-0.22.4
June-0.7-0.30.8-0.7
July0.50.31.51.7
August0.70.2-2.10.2
September0.2-0.2-0.7-0.5
October0.70.31.20.6
November0.9-1.50.7
December-0.2-0.10.8
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

2014201520162017
January115.8122.7122.4124.4
February117.9121.6121.4126.2
March119.5123.1120.6124.7
April120.1121.9122.2124.5
May120.6122.4122.0127.5
June119.7122.0123.0126.6
July120.3122.4124.8128.8
August121.1122.7122.2129.0
September121.4122.4121.3128.4
October122.2122.8122.7129.2
November123.3120.9123.6
December123.1120.8124.6
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change to October from December of the previous year
YearFreightPassengerCombined
2008-3.0-3.1-3.0
2009-1.9-0.5-1.5
20106.24.05.6
20112.51.92.4
2012-4.3-2.0-3.6
20133.71.43.0
20143.62.23.2
2015-0.23.20.9
20161.6-0.50.9
20173.7-2.21.8
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the October Freight TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
October Freight TSIPercent change from same month previous year
2008107.4-3.1
200998.5-8.3
2010107.99.5
2011111.53.3
2012110.2-1.2
2013116.45.6
2014122.25.0
2015122.80.5
2016122.7-0.1
2017129.25.3
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent Change to 2017 (October to October)
Since October . . .Duration in yearsFreight TSI Percent change to October 2017Passenger TSI Percent change to October 2017Combined TSI Percent change to October 2017
201615.3-1.23.2
201525.2-1.82.9
201435.71.64.4
2013411.04.18.8
2012517.27.914.3
2011615.96.212.8
2010719.76.515.5
2009831.211.324.7
2008920.38.516.4
20071016.65.112.8
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from previous month
2014201520162017
% Change% Change% Change% Change
January0.0-0.6-0.70.3
February0.2-0.81.0-1.4
March1.61.9-1.81.1
April-0.20.21.21.4
May0.60.20.3-0.2
June-0.90.10.80.7
July0.32.2-0.6-0.2
August0.6-1.6-1.3-0.6
September-0.20.21.60.9
October0.31.4-1.0-4.2
November-0.5-0.90.8
December0.80.70.2
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the October Passenger TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
October Passenger TSIPercent change from same month previous year
2008112.7-3.2
2009109.9-2.5
2010114.84.5
2011115.20.3
2012113.3-1.6
2013117.53.7
2014120.42.5
2015124.63.5
2016123.8-0.6
2017122.3-1.2
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from previous month
2014201520162017
% Change% Change% Change% Change
January-1.3-0.40.70.0
February1.4-0.8-0.30.6
March1.41.4-1.0-0.5
April0.3-0.71.20.3
May0.40.40.11.6
June-0.7-0.20.7-0.3
July0.41.00.81.2
August0.6-0.4-1.8-0.1
September0.10.00.0-0.1
October0.60.70.4-0.9
November0.5-1.40.7
December0.10.20.6
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the October Combined TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
October Combined TSIPercent change from same month previous year
2008109.2-3.1
2009101.9-6.7
2010110.07.9
2011112.72.5
2012111.2-1.3
2013116.85.0
2014121.74.2
2015123.51.5
2016123.1-0.3
2017127.13.2
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, December 13, 2017