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Freight Shipments Rose 0.3% in March from February

Press Release Number: 
BTS 22-13
Date: 
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Media Contact: 
Dave Smallen, 202-366-5568

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Five Years: Freight Transportation Services Index, March 2008-March 2013

Five Years: Freight Transportation Services Index, March 2008-March 2013

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 0.3 percent in March from February, rising for the fifth consecutive month, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS) Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI) released today. The March 2013 index level (113.7) was 19.9 percent above the April 2009 low during the most recent recession (Tables 1, 2A).

BTS, a part of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration, reported that the level of freight shipments in March measured by the Freight TSI (113.7) was 1.3 percent below the all-time high level of 115.2 in December 2011 (Table 2A). BTS’ TSI records begin in 2000. 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. The TSI is seasonally adjusted so that trends reflect changes beyond normal monthly fluctuations.

Beginning with the April release, BTS improved procedures and refined the TSI methodology. As a result there have been minor changes in monthly numbers released previously. Documentation will be made available in the near future.

Analysis: The Freight TSI increased for a fifth consecutive month in March 2013, though more slowly than the average growth of the index in that period. There was growth across most freight modes but seasonally adjusted rail traffic declined. Shipments of coal and grain by rail showed year-to-year declines, not seasonally adjusted.

Trend: With the March increase to 113.7, the index has exceeded its 2012 range for three months in a row. With five consecutive monthly increases, the March index was at its second highest level since April 2009 during the recession exceeded only by December 2011. The March increase followed the index reaching the third highest level since April 2009 one month earlier in February. After dipping to 94.8 in April 2009, the index rose 19.9 percent in the succeeding 47 months. For additional historical data, go to TSI data.

Index highs and lows: Freight shipments in March 2013 (113.7) were 19.9 percent higher than the all-time low in April 2009 during the recession (94.8). The March 2013 level is down 1.3 percent from the historic peak reached in December 2011 (115.2).

Long-term trend: Freight shipments are up 2.9 percent in the five years from the recession level of March 2008 and are up 9.5 percent in the 10 years from March 2003 (Table 5). 

Same month of previous year: March 2013 freight shipments were up 2.8 percent from March 2012 (Tables 4, 5).

1st Quarter Changes: The Freight TSI rose 1.3 percent in the first quarter, the second consecutive quarterly increase. The index rose in 12 of the last 15 quarters since mid-2009 (Tables 3, 10).

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. TSI includes data from 2000 to the present. Release of the April 2013 index is scheduled for June 2013.

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 0.2 percent in March from its February level (Table 6).  The Passenger TSI March 2013 level of 116.1 was 0.7 percent below the March 2012 level (Table 7). The index is down 0.9 percent in five years and up 24.4 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 0.3 percent in March from its February level (Table 8). The combined TSI March 2013 level of 114.4 was 1.8 percent above the March 2012 level (Table 9). The combined index is up 1.7 percent in five years and up 13.4 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.     

 

Table 1: Freight, Passenger and Combined Transportation Services Indexes Since September 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
September 111.2 0.2 116.6 0.2 112.7 0.2
October 108.5 -2.4 114.1 -2.1 110.1 -2.3
November 110.9 2.2 114.8 0.6 112.0 1.7
December 112.3 1.2 115.9 1.0 113.3 1.2
January 112.6 0.3 116.0 0.0 113.5 0.2
February 113.3 0.7 115.8 -0.1 114.1 0.5
March 113.7 0.3 116.1 0.2 114.4 0.3

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

NOTE: Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

 

Table 2: Freight Transportation Services Index Monthly Changes, 2010-2013

Percent change from previous month

  2010 2011 2012 2013
  % Change % Change % Change % Change
January 0.6 1.1 -3.5 0.3
February 1.6 -1.7 0.0 0.7
March 0.0 1.5 -0.6 0.3
April 0.5 -0.8 0.2  
May 0.7 -1.9 0.6  
June -0.3 2.1 0.3  
July 0.6 0.1 -0.2  
August -0.3 0.7 -0.4  
September 1.1 0.9 0.2  
October 0.5 0.0 -2.4  
November -0.5 0.1 2.2  
December 2.0 4.0 1.2  

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

 

Table 2A: Freight Transportation Services Index by Month, 2010-2013

  2010 2011 2012 2013
January 102.4 109.7 111.2 112.6
February 104.1 107.8 111.2 113.3
March 104.1 109.4 110.6 113.7
April 104.6 108.5 110.8  
May 105.3 106.4 111.4  
June 105.0 108.7 111.7  
July 105.6 108.9 111.5  
August 105.3 109.6 111.0  
September 106.5 110.6 111.2  
October 107.0 110.7 108.5  
November 106.4 110.8 110.9  
December 108.5 115.2 112.3  

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

 

Table 3: Annual Change in Freight, Passenger and Combined Transportation Services Indexes, 2004-2013

Percent change to March from December of the previous year (1st Quarter)

Year Freight Passenger Combined
2004 2.0 1.4 1.8
2005 1.1 1.7 1.3
2006 -0.2 1.7 0.3
2007 1.4 2.5 1.7
2008 -0.3 0.7 -0.1
2009 -4.3 -1.4 -3.5
2010 2.2 0.8 1.8
2011 0.8 0.1 0.6
2012 -4.0 0.6 -2.8
2013 1.3 0.1 0.9

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

 

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

Percent change in the March Freight TSI

(Monthly average of 2000 = 100)

  March Freight TSI Percent change from same month previous year
2004 110.1 6.0
2005 112.2 1.9
2006 111.9 -0.2
2007 112.0 0.1
2008 110.5 -1.4
2009 96.2 -12.9
2010 104.1 8.1
2011 109.4 5.1
2012 110.6 1.0
2013 113.7 2.8

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 2013 (March to March)

Since March . . . Duration in years Freight TSI Percent change to March 2013 Passenger TSI Percent change to March 2013 Combined TSI Percent change to March 2013
2012 1 2.8 -0.7 1.8
2011 2 3.9 2.5 3.5
2010 3 9.3 4.2 7.8
2009 4 18.1 7.0 14.8
2008 5 2.9 -0.9 1.7
2007 6 1.5 -0.4 0.9
2006 7 1.6 4.6 2.3
2005 8 1.4 6.6 2.6
2004 9 3.3 13.7 6.0
2003 10 9.5 24.4 13.4

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

 

Table 6: Passenger Transportation Services Index Monthly Changes, 2010-2013

Percent change from previous month

  2010 2011 2012 2013
  % Change % Change % Change % Change
January 0.3 0.4 -0.9 0.0
February -2.4 -1.3 1.4 -0.1
March 2.9 1.1 0.1 0.2
April -0.5 1.4 -0.7  
May 0.6 0.7 0.0  
June 1.0 -0.5 -0.1  
July 0.2 0.8 -0.9  
August 0.6 -1.4 1.1  
September 0.1 1.3 0.2  
October 1.6 0.0 -2.1  
November -1.1 0.0 0.6  
December -1.0 0.6 1.0  

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

 

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

Percent change in the March Passenger TSI

(Monthly average of 2000 = 100)

  March Passenger TSI Percent change from same month previous year
2004 102.1 9.5
2005 108.9 6.7
2006 111.0 1.9
2007 116.6 5.0
2008 117.1 0.5
2009 108.4 -7.4
2010 111.4 2.7
2011 113.2 1.6
2012 116.9 3.2
2013 116.1 -0.7

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

NOTE: Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

 

Table 8: Combined Transportation Services Index Monthly Changes, 2010-2013

Percent change from previous month

  2010 2011 2012 2013
  % Change % Change % Change % Change
January 0.5 0.9 -2.8 0.2
February 0.4 -1.6 0.4 0.5
March 0.8 1.4 -0.4 0.3
April 0.2 -0.2 -0.1  
May 0.7 -1.1 0.4  
June 0.1 1.3 0.2  
July 0.5 0.3 -0.4  
August 0.0 0.1 0.0  
September 0.8 1.0 0.2  
October 0.8 0.0 -2.3  
November -0.7 0.1 1.7  
December 1.1 3.0 1.2  

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

 

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

Percent change in the March Combined TSI

(Monthly average of 2000 = 100)

  March Combined TSI Percent change from same month previous year
2004 107.9 7.0
2005 111.5 3.3
2006 111.8 0.3
2007 113.4 1.4
2008 112.4 -0.8
2009 99.7 -11.4
2010 106.1 6.5
2011 110.5 4.1
2012 112.4 1.7
2013 114.4 1.8

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

NOTE: Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

 

Table 10: Freight Transportation Services Index Change by Quarter, 2004-2013

Percent change from the last month of the previous quarter

Year 1st Quarter (Jan-Mar) % Growth 2nd Quarter (Apr-Jun) % Growth 3rd Quarter (Jul-Sep) % Growth 4th Quarter (Oct-Dec) % Growth
2004 2.0 0.5 -0.1 0.4
2005 1.1 -0.5 0.0 0.5
2006 -0.2 0.9 -0.1 -2.1
2007 1.4 -2.3 -0.1 1.4
2008 -0.3 -0.3 -2.5 -6.3
2009 -4.3 -0.2 3.3 2.6
2010 2.2 0.9 1.4 1.9
2011 0.8 -0.6 1.8 4.1
2012 -4.0 1.1 -0.5 1.0
2013 1.3      

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

 

Table 11: Passenger Transportation Services Index Change by Quarter, 2004-2013

Percent change from the last month of the previous quarter

Year 1st Quarter (Jan-Mar) % Growth 2nd Quarter (Apr-Jun) % Growth 3rd Quarter (Jul-Sep) % Growth 4th Quarter (Oct-Dec) % Growth
2004 1.4 2.1 -0.3 3.1
2005 1.7 0.0 1.3 -1.1
2006 1.7 0.3 -0.6 2.8
2007 2.5 0.4 1.2 -1.7
2008 0.7 -0.3 -3.2 -2.6
2009 -1.4 0.4 0.4 1.1
2010 0.8 1.1 0.9 -0.5
2011 0.1 1.5 0.6 0.6
2012 0.6 -0.7 0.4 -0.5
2013 0.1      

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

 

Table 12: Combined Transportation Services Index Change by Quarter, 2004-2013

Percent change from the last month of the previous quarter

Year 1st Quarter (Jan-Mar) % Growth 2nd Quarter (Apr-Jun) % Growth 3rd Quarter (Jul-Sep) % Growth 4th Quarter (Oct-Dec) % Growth
2004 1.8 1.0 -0.2 1.2
2005 1.3 -0.4 0.3 0.1
2006 0.3 0.7 -0.3 -0.8
2007 1.7 -1.6 0.3 0.5
2008 -0.1 -0.3 -2.7 -5.3
2009 -3.5 0.0 2.5 2.1
2010 1.8 1.0 1.2 1.2
2011 0.6 0.0 1.4 3.1
2012 -2.8 0.6 -0.2 0.5
2013 0.9      

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