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Freight Shipments Fell 0.6% in August from July

Freight Shipments Fell 0.6% in August from July

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Five Years: Freight Transportation Services Index, September 2007-August 2012

Table Version | Excel | CSV

Five Years: Freight Transportation Services Index, September 2007-August 2012

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

Thursday, October 11, 2012 - The amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry fell 0.6 percent in August from July, declining after a one-month rise, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics' (BTS) Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI) released today. The August 2012 index level (109.0) was 15.6 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 August measured by the Freight TSI (109.0) was at the lowest level since November 2011 (108.9) and was 4.4 percent 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 in August 2012 continued a pattern of little change since January. This appears to reflect the rate of growth in the general economy. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth slowed to a revised 1.7 percent in the second quarter and a revised 2.0 percent in first quarter of 2012 from 3.0 percent in fourth quarter of 2011, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). Waterborne freight, which had declined significantly in June, has remained stable at the lower level since then, apparently due to the impact of continued low water conditions on the Mississippi River system.

Trend: Since peaking in December 2011 (114.0) at the highest level in the 22-year history of the Freight TSI series, the index has remained in a narrow band during the eight months of 2012. It reached a high of 110.6 in February and a low of 109.0 in August. After dipping to 94.3 in April 2009 during the recession, freight shipments increased in 25 of the last 40 months, rising 15.6 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 August 2012 (109.0) were 15.6 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 August 2012 level is down 4.4 percent from the historic freight shipment peak reached in December 2011 (114.0).

Long-term trend: Freight shipments are up 1.0 percent in the five years from the pre-recession level of August 2007 and up 6.4 percent in the 10 years from August 2002 despite declines in recent years (Table 5).

Same month of previous year: August 2012 freight shipments rose 0.9 percent from August 2011 and 10.6 percent from August 2009, which was in the trough of the recession, but remained below the level in August 2005 (111.4) 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 September index is scheduled for Nov. 15.

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 fell 0.3 percent in August from its July level (Table 6). The Passenger TSI August 2012 level of 117.4 was 3.3 percent above the August 2011 level (Table 7). The index is down 0.5 percent in five years but is up 24.0 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 0.5 percent in August from its July level (Table 8). The combined TSI August 2012 level of 111.2 was 1.6 percent above the August 2011 level (Table 9). The combined index is up 0.6 percent in five years and up 11.1 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 April (Freight, Passenger and Combined) were revised because of revisions in the output data of the component transportation services. The April Freight TSI is 109.7, revised from 109.6 reported in last month's release. The April Passenger TSI is 116.0 revised from 117.6. The April Combined TSI is 111.3 revised from 111.7. The TSI for May, June, July and August 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 February 2012
Percent Change from Previous Month
(Seasonally Adjusted, Monthly Average of 2000 = 100)

Excel | CSV

  Freight Passenger Combined
Index Pct. Change Index Pct. Change Index Pct. Change
February 110.6 0.7 116.8 1.4 112.2 0.9
March 109.5 -1.0 116.5 -0.3 111.4 -0.8
AprilR 109.7 0.1 116.0 -0.4 111.3 0.0
MayP 109.6 0.0 117.0 0.8 111.6 0.2
JuneP 109.5 -0.1 117.6 0.5 111.7 0.1
JulyP 109.6 0.1 117.7 0.1 111.8 0.1
AugustP 109.0 -0.6 117.4 -0.3 111.2 -0.5

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 -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 (R) 0.1
May 0.3 0.5 -2.1 (P) 0.0
June 1.0 -0.1 2.5 (P) -0.1
July 1.6 0.3 -0.2 (P) 0.1
August 1.5 -0.4 0.4 (P) -0.6
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 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 97.1 101.1 107.9 109.9
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 (R) 109.7
May 94.6 104.2 105.2 (P) 109.6
June 95.5 104.0 107.8 (P) 109.5
July 97.1 104.3 107.6 (P) 109.6
August 98.5 103.9 108.0 (P) 109.0
September 98.0 105.0 109.1  
October 97.3 105.2 108.8  
November 100.1 104.4 108.9  
December 100.7 106.9 114.0  

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 August from December of the previous year

Excel | CSV

Year Freight Passenger Combined
2003 -0.9 -1.3 -1.1
2004 2.1 4.7 2.8
2005 1.1 2.2 1.4
2006 -3.0 1.0 -1.9
2007 -1.7 3.3 -0.3
2008 -1.7 -1.8 -1.7
2009 -0.9 -0.4 -0.8
2010 3.2 2.3 3.0
2011 1.0 0.3 0.8
2012P -4.4 0.8 -2.9

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

NOTE: P = preliminary

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

Excel | CSV

  August Freight TSI Percent change from same month previous year
2003 103.4 0.9
2004 109.7 6.1
2005 111.4 1.6
2006 108.1 -3.0
2007 107.9 -0.2
2008 108.1 0.2
2009 98.5 -8.8
2010 103.9 5.4
2011 108.0 4.0
2012P 109.0 0.9

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 (August to August)

Excel | CSV

Since August... Duration in years Freight TSI Percent change to August 2012 Passenger TSI Percent change to August 2012 Combined TSI Percent change to August 2012
2011 1 0.9 3.3 1.6
2010 2 4.9 4.3 4.8
2009 3 10.6 6.4 9.5
2008 4 0.9 2.0 1.2
2007 5 1.0 -0.5 0.6
2006 6 0.8 6.6 2.4
2005 7 -2.2 7.9 0.6
2004 8 -0.7 11.6 2.7
2003 9 5.4 22.0 9.9
2002 10 6.4 24.0 11.1

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

NOTE: The percent changes to August 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 -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 (R) -0.4
May -1.7 0.6 1.2 (P) 0.8
June 0.5 0.8 -0.6 (P) 0.5
July 1.5 -0.2 0.1 (P) 0.1
August -0.1 0.2 -1.2 (P) -0.3
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 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 August Passenger TSI
(Monthly average of 2000 = 100)

Excel | CSV

  August Passenger TSI Percent change from same month previous year
2003 96.2 1.7
2004 105.1 9.3
2005 108.8 3.5
2006 110.1 1.2
2007 118.0 7.1
2008 115.0 -2.5
2009 110.3 -4.1
2010 112.6 2.0
2011 113.6 0.9
2012P 117.4 3.3

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 -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 (R) 0.0
May -0.3 0.5 -1.2 (P) 0.2
June 0.9 0.1 1.6 (P) 0.1
July 1.6 0.1 -0.1 (P) 0.1
August 1.1 -0.2 -0.1 (P) -0.5
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 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 August Combined TSI
(Monthly average of 2000 = 100)

Excel | CSV

  August Combined TSI Percent change from same month previous year
2003 101.2 1.1
2004 108.3 7.0
2005 110.6 2.1
2006 108.6 -1.8
2007 110.6 1.8
2008 109.9 -0.6
2009 101.6 -7.6
2010 106.2 4.5
2011 109.5 3.1
2012P 111.2 1.6

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.