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Freight Shipments Rose 1.7% in November from October

Press Release Number: 
BTS 02-13
Date: 
Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Media Contact: 
Dave Smallen - 202-366-5568

bts002_13.pdf | bts002_13.xls

Five Years: Freight Transportation Services Index, December 2007- November 2012

bts002_13_chart.xls

Five Years: Freight Transportation Services Index, December 2007- November 2012

SOURCE for Recession Dates: National Bureau of Economic Research, US Business Cycle Expansions and Contractions

The amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry rose 1.7 percent in November from October, rising after a one-month decline, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS) Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI) released today. The November 2012 index level (108.9) was 15.5 percent above the April 2009 low during the recession (Tables 1, 2A).

BTS, a part of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration, reported that the level of freight shipments in November measured by the Freight TSI (108.9) was 4.5 percent (Table 3) below the all-time high level of 114.0 in December 2011 (Table 2A). BTS’ TSI records began in 1990. See historical TSI data.

The Freight TSI measures the month-to-month changes in 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.

Analysis: The Freight TSI increased in November 2012, at least in part as a result of recovery from Hurricane Sandy, which depressed both truck and freight rail traffic in October.  Both rail freight and trucking showed large increases in November.

Trend:Since peaking in December 2011 (114.0) at the highest level in the 22-year history of the Freight TSI series, the index remained in a narrow band through the first 11 months of 2012, except for a drop in October to 107.1, its lowest level since May 2011 (105.2). The index then returned in November to its level of one year ago in November 2011. After dipping to 94.3 in April 2009 during the recession, freight shipments increased in 28 of the last 43 months, rising 15.5 percent during that period (Tables 2, 2A). For additional historical data, go to TSI data.

Index highs and lows: Freight shipments in November 2012 (108.9) were 15.5 percent higher than the recent low in April 2009 during the recession (94.3). In April 2009, freight shipments were at their lowest level since June 1997 (92.3). The November 2012 level is down 4.5 percent from the historic peak reached in December 2011 (114.0).

Long-term trend: Freight shipments are down 0.4 percent in the five years from the pre-recession level of November 2007 but are up 4.7 percent in the 10 years from November 2002 despite declines in recent years (Table 5). 

Same month of previous year: November 2012 freight shipments were unchanged from November 2011, but rose 8.8 percent from November 2009, shortly after the end of the recession. Shipments measured by the index remained below the level of November 2005 (112.5) two years prior to the recession (Tables 4, 5).

The TSI has three seasonally adjusted indexes that measures 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. TSI includes historical data from 1990 to the present. Release of the December 2012 index is scheduled for Feb. 13.

For a webinar on the TSI, see Past Webinars.  For a video explanation of the TSI, see Overview of the Transportation Services Index.  A BTS report explaining the TSI, Transportation Services Index and the Economy, is available for download.

Passenger Index: The TSI for passengers rose 0.1 percent in November from its October level (Table 6).  The Passenger TSI November 2012 level of 117.6 was 2.0 percent above the November 2011 level (Table 7). The index is up 0.4 percent in five years and up 23.3 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 1.2 percent in November from its October level (Table 8). The combined TSI November 2012 level of 111.2 was 0.6 percent above the November 2011 level (Table 9). The combined index is down 0.1 percent in five years but up 9.7 percent in 10 years despite recent declines (Table 5). The combined TSI merges the freight and passenger indexes into a single index.

Revisions: TSI numbers for July (Freight, Passenger and Combined) were revised because of revisions in the output data of the component transportation services. The July Freight TSI is 109.8, revised from 109.6 reported in last month’s release. The July Passenger TSI is 114.8 revised from 117.7. The July Combined TSI is 111.1 revised from 111.8. The TSI for August, September, October and November are preliminary.

TSI revision policy: TSI is updated monthly with the latest four months’ index numbers considered preliminary. Each month BTS releases the latest preliminary TSI, and replaces the oldest preliminary TSI with a revised TSI. More information about the BTS revision policies is available at monthly revision policy and 2011 Comprehensive Revision.

Table 1: Freight, Passenger and Combined Transportation Services Indexes since May 2012
Percent change from Previous Month
(Seasonally Adjusted, Monthly Average of 2000 = 100)

  Freight Passenger Combined
Index Pct. Change Index Pct. Change Index Pct. Change
May 109.8 0.1 115.7 -0.2 111.4 0.0
June 109.9 0.1 115.8 0.1 111.4 0.1
JulyR 109.8 -0.1 114.8 -0.9 111.1 -0.3
AugustP 109.0 -0.7 117.4 2.2 111.2 0.1
SeptemberP 109.2 0.2 118.5 0.9 111.7 0.4
OctoberP 107.1 -1.9 117.5 -0.8 109.9 -1.6
NovemberP 108.9 1.7 117.6 0.1 111.2 1.2

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

NOTE: P = preliminary; R = revised

NOTE: Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Table 2: Freight Transportation Services Index Monthly Changes, 2009-2012
Percent change from previous month

  2009 % Change 2010 % Change 2011 % Change 2012 % Change
January -2.4 0.5 1.0 -3.6
February 2.8 1.1 -1.4 0.7
March -4.0 1.2 2.0 -1.0
April -1.6 0.1 -1.0 0.1
May 0.3 0.5 -2.1 0.1
June 1.0 -0.1 2.5 0.1
July 1.6 0.3 -0.2 (R) -0.1
August 1.5 -0.4 0.4 (P) -0.7
September -0.5 1.1 1.1 (P) 0.2
October -0.7 0.2 -0.3 (P) -1.9
November 2.9 -0.7 0.1 (P) 1.7
December 0.6 2.4 4.7  

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

NOTE: P = preliminary; R = revised

Table 2A: Freight Transportation Services Index by Month, 2009-2012

  2009 2010 2011 2012
January 97.1 101.1 107.9 109.9
February 99.8 102.3 106.4 110.6
March 95.9 103.6 108.6 109.5
April 94.3 103.7 107.4 109.7
May 94.6 104.2 105.2 109.8
June 95.5 104.0 107.8 109.9
July 97.1 104.3 107.6 (R) 109.8
August 98.5 103.9 108.0 (P) 109.0
September 98.0 105.0 109.1 (P) 109.2
October 97.3 105.2 108.8 (P) 107.1
November 100.1 104.4 108.9 (P) 108.9
December 100.7 106.9 114.0  

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

NOTE: P = preliminary; R = revised

Table 3: Freight, Passenger and Combined Transportation Services Indexes Year-to-Date Change, 2003-2012
Percent change to November from December of the previous year

Year Freight Passenger Combined
2003 1.3 1.3 1.3
2004 3.1 5.5 3.8
2005 2.1 2.9 2.4
2006 -3.8 3.6 -1.7
2007 -0.4 2.5 0.4
2008 -6.1 -5.5 -6.0
2009 0.7 -0.9 0.2
2010 3.7 4.0 3.8
2011 1.9 1.8 1.8
2012P -4.5 1.0 -2.9

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

NOTE: P = preliminary

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
2003 105.7 1.7
2004 110.7 4.7
2005 112.5 1.6
2006 107.2 -4.7
2007 109.3 1.9
2008 103.2 -5.6
2009 100.1 -2.9
2010 104.4 4.3
2011 108.9 4.3
2012P 108.9 0.0

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

NOTE: P = preliminary

NOTE: Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Table 5: Transportation Services Indexes from Previous Years
Percent change to 2012 (November to November)

Since November... Duration in years Freight TSI Percent change to November 2012 Passenger TSI Percent change to November 2012 Combined TSI Percent change to November 2012
2011 1 0.0 2.0 0.6
2010 2 4.3 2.8 3.9
2009 3 8.8 7.1 8.3
2008 4 5.6 6.3 5.8
2007 5 -0.4 0.4 -0.1
2006 6 1.6 4.0 2.3
2005 7 -3.2 7.3 -0.3
2004 8 -1.7 10.9 1.8
2003 9 3.0 19.1 7.4
2002 10 4.7 23.3 9.7

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

NOTE:  The Percent changes to November 2012 are all preliminary.

Table 6: Passenger Transportation Services Index Monthly Changes, 2009-2012
Percent change from previous month

  2009 % Change 2010 % Change 2011 % Change 2012 % Change
January -1.0 0.6 0.2 -1.0
February 0.5 -2.1 -0.2 1.4
March -1.4 2.3 0.9 -0.3
April 1.4 0.2 -0.1 -0.4
May -1.7 0.6 1.2 -0.2
June 0.5 0.8 -0.6 0.1
July 1.5 -0.2 0.1 (R) -0.9
August -0.1 0.2 -1.2 (P) 2.2
September -0.6 1.0 1.4 (P) 0.9
October 0.1 0.9 -0.4 (P) -0.8
November -0.1 -0.3 0.5 (P) 0.1
December 0.2 -1.0 0.9  

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

NOTE: P = preliminary; R = revised

Table 7: Passenger Transportation Services Index from Year-to-Year
Percent change in the November Passenger TSI
(Monthly average of 2000 = 100)

  November Passenger TSI Percent change from same month previous year
2003 98.7 3.6
2004 106.0 7.4
2005 109.6 3.4
2006 113.0 3.2
2007 117.1 3.6
2008 110.6 -5.5
2009 109.8 -0.8
2010 114.4 4.2
2011 115.3 0.8
2012P 117.6 2.0

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

NOTE: P = preliminary

NOTE: Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Table 8: Combined Transportation Services Index Monthly Changes, 2009-2012
Percent change from previous month

  2009 % Change 2010 % Change 2011 % Change 2012 % Change
January -2.0 0.5 0.7 -2.9
February 2.2 0.2 -1.1 0.9
March -3.3 1.5 1.7 -0.8
April -0.8 0.1 -0.8 0.0
May -0.3 0.5 -1.2 0.0
June 0.9 0.1 1.6 0.1
July 1.6 0.1 -0.1 (R) -0.3
August 1.1 -0.2 -0.1 (P) 0.1
September -0.5 1.0 1.2 (P) 0.4
October -0.5 0.4 -0.3 (P) -1.6
November 2.1 -0.6 0.2 (P) 1.2
December 0.5 1.5 3.6  

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

NOTE: P = preliminary; R = revised

Table 9: Combined Transportation Services Index from Year-to-Year
Percent change in the November Combined TSI
(Monthly average of 2000 = 100)

  November Combined TSI Percent change from same month previous year
2003 103.6 2.2
2004 109.3 5.5
2005 111.6 2.1
2006 108.8 -2.6
2007 111.4 2.4
2008 105.1 -5.6
2009 102.6 -2.4
2010 107.0 4.3
2011 110.6 3.3
2012P 111.2 0.6

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

NOTE: P = preliminary

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.

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, sight seeing services, ferry services, taxi service, private automobile usage, or bicycling and other non-motorized transportation.