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November 2018 Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI)

Release Number: BTS 01-19

Date: Wednesday, January 9, 2019

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November 2018 Freight shipments

The Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI), which is based on the amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry, rose 1.3 percent in November from October, rising for the fourth consecutive month to reach a new all-time high, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS). The November 2018 index level (140.0) was 47.7 percent above the April 2009 low during the most recent recession (Tables 1, 2, and 2A).

MonthFreight TSI
Nov-13118.8
Dec-13117.8
Jan-14116.0
Feb-14117.9
Mar-14119.9
Apr-14120.5
May-14120.9
Jun-14119.7
Jul-14120.4
Aug-14120.8
Sep-14121.9
Oct-14122.6
Nov-14123.2
Dec-14123.1
Jan-15122.8
Feb-15121.5
Mar-15122.6
Apr-15121.5
May-15121.7
Jun-15121.3
Jul-15122.4
Aug-15123.0
Sep-15123.0
Oct-15122.5
Nov-15120.8
Dec-15120.4
Jan-16121.8
Feb-16121.5
Mar-16120.2
Apr-16122.3
May-16121.6
Jun-16122.3
Jul-16125.2
Aug-16122.9
Sep-16121.7
Oct-16122.6
Nov-16123.2
Dec-16124.0
Jan-17123.6
Feb-17124.4
Mar-17124.3
Apr-17124.8
May-17124.9
Jun-17125.2
Jul-17127.6
Aug-17128.3
Sep-17127.6
Oct-17129.3
Nov-17131.2
Dec-17132.3
Jan-18130.0
Feb-18132.7
Mar-18134.6
Apr-18134.5
May-18135.7
Jun-18136.3
Jul-18135.3
Aug-18135.4
Sep-18136.3
Oct-18138.2
Nov-18140.0

The level of for-hire freight shipments in November measured by the Freight TSI (140.0) reached its all-time high (Table 2A). BTS’ TSI records begin in 2000. See historical TSI data.

The October index was revised to 138.2 from 138.8 in last month’s release. Monthly numbers for August and September 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 seasonal change from month-to-month comparisons. The index is based on estimates of the most recent two months of airline data.

Analysis: The Freight TSI November increase of 1.3 percent was driven by significant growth in trucking, air freight and pipeline, while water and rail intermodal decreased and rail carloads were stable. The TSI increase took place against a background of positive results for other indicators. The Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production index rose by 0.6 percent in November, with increases in in mining and utilities and no change in manufacturing. Personal income and housing starts grew. The Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing index rose to 59.3, indicating accelerating growth. 

Trend: The 1.3 percent increase in the Freight TSI in November was the fourth consecutive monthly increase, for a total increase of 3.5 percent since a slight dip from June to July. It was the fourth time this year that Freight TSI grew by 1.3 percent or more. TSI has now had six record highs in 2018, including both November and October, and has been above the February all-time high of 132.7 in every subsequent month. The index is now up 6.7 percent in one year, 13.6 percent in two years and 15.9 percent in three years.

With a level of 140.0 in November, Freight TSI is now 40 percent above the level it had in its base year of 2000. TSI is indexed to combine physical measures of different modes, using a common base year. By definition, the value of the index in the base year is exactly 100.0 and the index level of 140 indicates a rise of 40 percent from the base year.

The November index was 47.7 percent above the April 2009 low when the index dropped below the base year level during the most recent recession. For additional historical data, go to TSI data.

Index highs and lows: For-hire freight shipments in November 2018 (140.0) were 47.7 percent higher than the low in April 2009 during the recession (94.8). The November 2018 level reached its all-time high (Table 1A).

Year to date: For-hire freight shipments measured by the index were up 5.8 percent in November compared to the end of 2017 (Table 3).

Long-term trend: For-hire freight shipments are up 17.8 percent in the five years from November 2013 and are up 34.2 percent in the 10 years from November 2008 (Table 5). 

Same month of previous year: November 2018 for-hire freight shipments were up 6.7 percent from November 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 December 2018 index is scheduled for Feb. 13.

Passenger Index: The TSI for passengers rose 0.2 percent in November from its October level (Table 6). The Passenger TSI November 2018 level of 130.4 was 1.6 percent above the November 2017 level (Table 7). The index is up 9.9 percent in five years and up 17.9 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 1.0 percent in November from its October level (Table 8). The combined TSI November 2018 level of 136.9 was 5.1 percent above the November 2017 level (Table 9). The combined index is up 15.2 percent in five years and up 28.8 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.   

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

Table 1: Freight, Passenger and Combined Transportation Services Indexes since May 2018

Percent Change from Previous Month

(Seasonally-Adjusted, Monthly Average of 2000 = 100)

Freight, Passenger and Combined Transportation Services Indexes since May 2018
 

Freight

Passenger

Combined

Index

Pct. Change 

Index

Pct. Change 

Index

Pct. Change 

May

135.7

0.9

130.5

0.6

134.1

0.8

June

136.3

0.4

131.6

0.8

134.8

0.5

July

135.3

-0.7

131.4

-0.2

134.0

-0.6

August

135.4

0.1

130.9

-0.4

133.9

-0.1

September

136.3

0.7

128.0

-2.2

133.6

-0.2

October

138.2

1.4

130.1

1.6

135.5

1.4

November

140.0

1.3

130.4

0.2

136.9

1.0

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

NOTE: Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Table 1A: Annual High and Low Points in Freight Transportation Services Index, 2009-2018

Annual High and Low Points in Freight Transportation Services Index, 2009-2018

Year

Month

Peak

Month

Bottom

2009

December

101.6

April

94.8

2014

November

123.2

January

116.0

2015

August

123.0

July

120.4

2016

July

125.2

March

120.2

2017

December

132.3

January

123.6

2018

(thru November)

November

140.0

January

130.0

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Table 2: Freight Transportation Services Index Monthly Changes, 2015-2018

Percent change from previous month

Freight Transportation Services Index Monthly Changes, 2015-2018 Percent change from previous month
 

2015

2016

2017

2018

% Change

% Change

% Change

% Change

January

-0.2

1.2

-0.3

-1.7

February

-1.1

-0.2

0.6

2.1

March

0.9

-1.1

-0.1

1.4

April

-0.9

1.7

0.4

-0.1

May

0.2

-0.6

0.1

0.9

June

-0.3

0.6

0.2

0.4

July

0.9

2.4

1.9

-0.7

August

0.5

-1.8

0.5

0.1

September

0.0

-1.0

-0.5

0.7

October

-0.4

0.7

1.3

1.4

November

-1.4

0.5

1.5

1.3

December

-0.3

0.6

0.8

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Table 2A: Freight Transportation Services Index by Month, 2015-2018

Freight Transportation Services Index by Month, 2015-2018

2015

2016

2017

2018

January

122.8

121.8

123.6

130.0

February

121.5

121.5

124.4

132.7

March

122.6

120.2

124.3

134.6

April

121.5

122.3

124.8

134.5

May

121.7

121.6

124.9

135.7

June

121.3

122.3

125.2

136.3

July

122.4

125.2

127.6

135.3

August

123.0

122.9

128.3

135.4

September

123.0

121.7

127.6

136.3

October

122.5

122.6

129.3

138.2

November

120.8

123.2

131.2

140.0

December

120.4

124.0

132.3

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Table 3: Freight, Passenger and Combined Transportation Services Indexes Year-to-Date Change, 2009-2018

Percent change to November from December of the previous year

Freight, Passenger and Combined Transportation Services Indexes Year-to-Date Change, 2009-2018

Year

Freight

Passenger

Combined

2009

0.8

-1.1

0.2

2010

5.7

3.1

4.9

2011

2.9

1.9

2.6

2012

-2.6

-0.1

-1.8

2013

5.8

2.3

4.8

    

2014

4.6

1.7

3.7

2015

-1.9

2.2

-0.6

2016

2.3

0.2

1.6

2017

5.8

2.3

4.7

2018

5.8

2.2

4.7

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Table 4: Freight Transportation Services Index from Year-to-Year

Percent Change in the November Freight TSI

(Monthly average of 2000 = 100)

Freight Transportation Services Index from Year-to-Year Percent Change in the November Freight TSI

November Freight TSI

Percent change from same month previous year

2009

101.2

-3.0

2010

107.4

6.1

2011

111.9

4.2

2012

112.0

0.1

2013

118.8

6.1

2014

123.2

3.7

2015

120.8

-1.9

2016

123.2

2.0

2017

131.2

6.5

2018

140.0

6.7

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

NOTE: Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Table 5: Transportation Services Indexes from Previous Years

Percent Change to 2018 (November to November)

Transportation Services Indexes from Previous Years Percent Change to 2018 (November to November)

Since November        . . .

Duration in years

Freight TSI Percent change to November 2018

Passenger TSI Percent change to November 2018

Combined TSI Percent change to November 2018

2017

1

6.7

1.6

5.1

2016

2

13.6

4.5

10.6

2015

3

15.9

5.7

12.4

2014

4

13.6

8.9

12.0

2013

5

17.8

9.9

15.2

2012

6

25.0

12.8

20.9

2011

7

25.1

13.2

21.2

2010

8

30.4

14.6

25.3

2009

9

38.3

19.4

32.1

2008

10

34.2

17.9

28.8

                                                                                                                                                         
SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Table 6: Passenger Transportation Services Index Monthly Changes, 2015-2018

Percent change from previous month

Passenger Transportation Services Index Monthly Changes, 2015-2018 Percent change from previous month
 

2015

2016

2017

2018

% Change

% Change

% Change

% Change

January

-0.5

-0.6

0.5

-0.7

February

-0.5

1.5

-1.0

1.4

March

1.5

-2.3

0.8

0.2

April

0.1

1.1

1.0

0.8

May

0.2

0.3

-0.2

0.6

June

0.0

0.6

0.3

0.8

July

2.2

-0.5

0.2

-0.2

August

-1.4

-1.0

-0.3

-0.4

September

0.3

1.9

-2.2

-2.2

October

1.1

-1.5

3.0

1.6

November

-0.9

0.8

0.4

0.2

December

0.9

0.5

-0.5

 SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Table 7: Passenger Transportation Services Index from Year-to-Year

Percent change in the November Passenger TSI

(Monthly average of 2000 = 100)

Passenger Transportation Services Index from Year-to-Year Percent change in the November Passenger TSI

November Passenger TSI

Percent change from same month previous year

2009

109.2

-1.3

2010

113.8

4.2

2011

115.2

1.2

2012

115.6

0.3

2013

118.6

2.6

2014

119.7

0.9

2015

123.4

3.1

2016

124.8

1.1

2017

128.3

2.8

2018

130.4

1.6

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

NOTE: Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Table 8: Combined Transportation Services Index Monthly Changes, 2015-2018

Percent change from previous month

Combined Transportation Services Index Monthly Changes, 2015-2018 Percent change from previous month
 

2015

2016

2017

2018

% Change

% Change

% Change

% Change

January

-0.4

0.7

-0.1

-1.4

February

-0.8

0.2

0.1

1.8

March

1.1

-1.5

0.2

1.1

April

-0.7

1.6

0.6

0.2

May

0.2

-0.3

-0.1

0.8

June

-0.2

0.6

0.3

0.5

July

1.3

1.4

1.4

-0.6

August

-0.1

-1.5

0.2

-0.1

September

0.2

0.0

-1.1

-0.2

October

0.1

0.0

1.9

1.4

November

-1.2

0.6

1.1

1.0

December

0.0

0.6

0.4

 SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Table 9: Combined Transportation Services Index from Year-to-Year

Percent change in the November Combined TSI

(Monthly average of 2000 = 100)

Combined Transportation Services Index from Year-to-Year Percent change in the November Combined TSI

November Combined TSI

Percent change from same month previous year

2009

103.6

-2.5

2010

109.3

5.5

2011

113.0

3.4

2012

113.2

0.2

2013

118.8

4.9

2014

122.2

2.9

2015

121.8

-0.3

2016

123.8

1.6

2017

130.3

5.3

2018

136.9

5.1

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

NOTE: Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

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 (estimated for most recent two months).

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 (estimated for most recent two months).

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, January 9, 2019