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Freight Shipments Rose 0.2% in April from March

Freight Shipments Rose 0.2% in April from March

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Five Years: Freight Transportation Services Index, May 2007-April 2012

Table Version | Excel | CSV

Five Years: Freight Transportation Services Index, May 2007-April 2012

Wednesday, June 13, 2012 - The amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry rose 0.2 percent in April from March, 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 April 2012 level was 16.2 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 measured by the Freight TSI, 109.6, declined from December 2011's revised mark of 114.0 which was the all-time high since 1990 when BTS' TSI records began (Table 2A). See historical TSI data.

The Freight TSI measures the month-to-month changes in freight shipments by mode of transportation in ton-miles, which are then 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 has shown little change since dropping in January from its December peak. The recent plateauing of the freight TSI since January appears to reflect slowing growth in the general economy. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth slowed to 1.9 percent in first quarter of 2012, from 3.0 percent in fourth quarter of 2011, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). Changes in employment and personal income suggest that the slower growth continued in April, which is consistent with the lack of change in the freight TSI. Personal income grew by only 0.2 percent in April after higher growth in the previous four months, according to BEA, and total nonfarm employment grew by only 77,000 jobs, down from 143,000 in March, and over 200,000 in each of the prior two months, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Trend: Freight shipments in April 2012 (109.6) were at the fourth highest level since the early recession month of July 2008 despite the 3.8 percent decline from December 2011 (114.0 on the index), which was the highest level in the 22-year history of the series. After dipping to a recent low in April 2009 (94.3) during the recession, freight shipments increased in 24 of the last 36 months, rising 16.2 percent during that period (Tables 2, 2A). For additional historical data, go to http://www.bts.gov/xml/tsi/src/index.xml.

Index highs and lows: Freight shipments in April 2012 (109.6) rose 16.2 percent from 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 April 2012 level is down 3.8 percent from the historic freight shipment peak reached in December 2011 (114.0).

Long-term trend: Freight shipments are up 0.4 percent in the five years from the pre-recession level of April 2007 and up 10.0 percent in the 10 years from April 2002 despite declines in recent years (Table 5).

Same month of previous year: April 2012 freight shipments rose 2.0 percent from April 2011 and 16.2 percent from April 2009, during the recession, but remain below the level in April 2008 (110.3) prior to the recession (Tables 4, 5).

The TSI is a seasonally adjusted index that measures changes from the monthly average of the base year of 2000. It includes historic data from 1990 to the present. Release of the May index is scheduled for July 11.

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 0.8 percent in April from its March level (Table 6). The Passenger TSI April 2012 level of 117.6 was 2.9 percent above the April 2011 level (Table 7). The index is up 1.1 percent in five years and up 25.4 percent in 10 years (Table 5). The passenger TSI measures the month-to-month changes in travel conducted in 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 0.4 percent in April from its March level (Table 8). The combined TSI April 2012 level of 111.7 was 2.3 percent above the April 2011 level (Table 9). The combined index is up 0.6 percent in five years and up 14.2 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 December (Freight, Passenger and Combined) were revised because of revisions in the output data of the component transportation services. The December Freight TSI is 114.0, revised from 113.7 reported in last month's release. The December Passenger TSI is 116.4 revised from 116.3. The December Combined TSI is 114.6, revised from 114.4. The TSI for January, February, March and April 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 October 2011
Percent Change by Month
(Seasonally Adjusted, Monthly Average of 2000 = 100)

Excel | CSV

  Freight Passenger Combined
Index Pct. Change Index Pct. Change Index Pct. Change
October 108.8 -0.3 114.8 -0.4 110.4 -0.3
November 108.9 0.1 115.3 0.5 110.6 0.2
DecemberR 114.0 4.7 116.4 0.9 114.6 3.6
JanuaryP 109.7 -3.8 116.4 0.0 111.5 -2.7
FebruaryP 110.3 0.5 116.1 -0.3 111.8 0.3
MarchP 109.4 -0.8 116.7 0.5 111.3 -0.4
AprilP 109.6 0.2 117.6 0.8 111.7 0.4

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

Excel | CSV

  2009 % Change 2010 % Change 2011 % Change 2012 % Change
January -2.4 0.5 1.0 (P) -3.8
February 2.8 1.1 -1.4 (P) 0.5
March -4.0 1.2 2.0 (P) -0.8
April -1.6 0.1 -1.0 (P) 0.2
May 0.3 0.5 -2.1  
June 1.0 -0.1 2.5  
July 1.6 0.3 -0.2  
August 1.5 -0.4 0.4  
September -0.5 1.1 1.1  
October -0.7 0.2 -0.3  
November 2.9 -0.7 0.1  
December 0.6 2.4 (R) 4.7  

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

NOTE: P = preliminary; R = revised

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

Excel | CSV

  2009 2010 2011 2012
January 97.1 101.1 107.9 (P) 109.7
February 99.8 102.3 106.4 (P) 110.3
March 95.9 103.6 108.6 (P) 109.4
April 94.3 103.7 107.4 (P) 109.6
May 94.6 104.2 105.2  
June 95.5 104.0 107.8  
July 97.1 104.3 107.6  
August 98.5 103.9 108.0  
September 98.0 105.0 109.1  
October 97.3 105.2 108.8  
November 100.1 104.4 108.9  
December 100.7 106.9 (R) 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 from December to April

Excel | CSV

Year Freight Passenger Combined
2003 -0.9 -6.8 -2.5
2004 2.4 2.8 2.5
2005 1.8 2.3 1.9
2006 -0.7 2.0 0.1
2007 -0.5 1.8 0.1
2008 0.4 -0.2 0.2
2009 -5.2 -0.6 -3.9
2010 3.0 0.9 2.4
2011 0.5 0.9 0.6
2012P -3.8 1.0 -2.5

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

NOTE: P = preliminary

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

Excel | CSV

  April Freight TSI Percent change from same month previous year
2003 103.5 3.9
2004 110.0 6.3
2005 112.2 1.9
2006 110.6 -1.4
2007 109.2 -1.3
2008 110.3 1.0
2009 94.3 -14.5
2010 103.7 9.9
2011 107.4 3.7
2012P 109.6 2.0

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 (April to April)

Excel | CSV

Since April... Duration in years Freight TSI Percent change to April 2012 Passenger TSI Percent change to April 2012 Combined TSI Percent change to April 2012
2011 1 2.0 2.9 2.3
2010 2 5.8 6.0 5.8
2009 3 16.2 6.8 13.6
2008 4 -0.6 0.6 -0.3
2007 5 0.4 1.1 0.6
2006 6 -0.9 5.6 0.9
2005 7 -2.3 8.0 0.6
2004 8 -0.4 13.9 3.5
2003 9 5.9 29.3 12.1
2002 10 10.0 25.4 14.2

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

NOTE: The percent changes to April 2012 are all preliminary.

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

Excel | CSV

  2009 % Change 2010 % Change 2011 % Change 2012 % Change
January -1.0 0.6 0.2 (P) 0.0
February 0.5 -2.1 -0.2 (P) -0.3
March -1.4 2.3 0.9 (P) 0.5
April 1.4 0.2 -0.1 (P) 0.8
May -1.7 0.6 1.2  
June 0.5 0.8 -0.6  
July 1.5 -0.2 0.1  
August -0.1 0.2 -1.2  
September -0.6 1.0 1.4  
October 0.1 0.9 -0.4  
November -0.1 -0.3 0.5  
December 0.2 -1.0 (R) 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 April Passenger TSI
(Monthly average of 2000 = 100)

Excel | CSV

  April Passenger TSI Percent change from same month previous year
2003 90.9 -3.1
2004 103.3 13.6
2005 108.9 5.4
2006 111.3 2.2
2007 116.3 4.4
2008 116.9 0.5
2009 110.2 -5.8
2010 111.0 0.7
2011 114.3 3.0
2012P 117.6 2.9

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

Excel | CSV

  2009 % Change 2010 % Change 2011 % Change 2012 % Change
January -2.0 0.5 0.7 (P) -2.7
February 2.2 0.2 -1.1 (P) 0.3
March -3.3 1.5 1.7 (P) -0.4
April -0.8 0.1 -0.8 (P) 0.4
May -0.3 0.5 -1.2  
June 0.9 0.1 1.6  
July 1.6 0.1 -0.1  
August 1.1 -0.2 -0.1  
September -0.5 1.0 1.2  
October -0.5 0.4 -0.3  
November 2.1 -0.6 0.2  
December 0.5 1.5 (R) 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 April Combined TSI
(Monthly average of 2000 = 100)

Excel | CSV

  April Combined TSI Percent change from same month previous year
2003 99.7 1.9
2004 108.0 8.3
2005 111.1 2.9
2006 110.7 -0.4
2007 111.1 0.3
2008 112.1 0.9
2009 98.4 -12.2
2010 105.6 7.3
2011 109.2 3.5
2012P 111.7 2.3

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.