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January 2017 Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI)

Press Release Number: 
BTS 12-17
Date: 
Wednesday, March 8, 2017
Media Contact: 
Dave Smallen, 202-366-5568

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The Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI), which is based on the amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry, remained unchanged in January from its December level, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS). The January 2017 index level (123.2) was 30.1 percent above the April 2009 low during the most recent recession (Tables 1, 2, and 2A).

Freight Transportation Services Index, January 2012 - January 2017
(Seasonally Adjusted, Monthly Average of 2000 = 100)

Table Version | Excel

Freight Transportation Services Index, January 2012 - January 2017

The level of for-hire freight shipments in January measured by the Freight TSI (123.2) was 1.6 percent below the all-time high level of 125.2 in July 2016 (Table 2A). BTS’ TSI records begin in 2000. See historical TSI data.

The December index was revised to 123.2 from 124.7 in last month’s release as a result of fewer actual air freight ton-miles than forecast.   

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 seasons from month-to-month comparisons.

Analysis: In January, there were increases in air freight, water, and rail carloads, while trucking, pipeline, and rail intermodal declined, resulting in no change in the Freight TSI. The January stability in Freight TSI took place against a background of mixed signals in other economic indicators. Employment and Personal Income both grew in January, and the ISM Purchasing Managers’ Index showed positive and accelerating growth. However the Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production index declined by 0.3 percent, caused by a decline in utility output, and housing starts were off by 2.6 percent.

Trend: The January Freight TSI remained in the same narrow range that has continued for two and a half years. Since the index reached 121.1 for the first time in August 2014, it has with only two exceptions fluctuated between a low of 120.5 and a high of 123.5, slightly above the January level. The two exceptions were March 2016 when the index dropped to a three-year low of 119.3 and July 2016 when it reached a new peak of 125.2. The index dropped 3.4 percent in the two months after reaching that peak, then rose 2.1 percent in the following two months to reach 123.5 in November 2016, its highest point since reaching the July high. The January 2017 level is 0.2 percent below the November 2016 index. The January index was 30.1 percent above the April 2009 low during the most recent recession. For additional historical data, go to TSI data.

Index highs and lows: For-hire freight shipments in January 2017 (123.2) were 30.1 percent higher than the recent low in April 2009 during the recession (94.7). The January 2017 level was 1.6 percent below the historic peak reached in July 2016 (125.2) (Table 1A).

Year to date: For-hire freight shipments measured by the index were at the same level as in January compared to the end of 2016 (Table 3).

Long-term trend: For-hire freight shipments are up 10.6 percent in the five years from January 2012 and are up 12.3 percent in the 10 years from January 2007 (Table 5). 

Same month of previous year: January 2017 for-hire freight shipments were up 0.8 percent from January 2016 (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 February 2017 index is scheduled for April 12.

Passenger Index: The TSI for passengers rose 0.6 percent in January from its December level (Table 6).  The Passenger TSI January 2017 level of 124.8 was 1.1 percent above the January 2016 level (Table 7). The index is up 8.2 percent in five years and up 9.6 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 0.2 percent in January from its December level (Table 8). The combined TSI January 2017 level of 123.8 was 0.9 percent above the January 2016 level (Table 9). The combined index is up 9.9 percent in five years and up 11.3 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.   

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.

 

Table 1: Freight, Passenger and Combined Transportation Services Indexes Since July 2016

Percent Change from Previous Month

(Seasonally Adjusted, Monthly Average of 2000 = 100)

  Freight Passenger Combined
Index Pct. Change Index Pct. Change Index Pct. Change
July 125.2 2.0 124.5 -1.2 125.1 1.1
August 122.5 -2.2 122.8 -1.4 122.7 -1.9
September 121.0 -1.2 124.9 1.7 122.3 -0.3
October 122.9 1.6 123.6 -1.0 123.2 0.7
November 123.5 0.5 124.5 0.7 123.8 0.5
December 123.2 -0.2 124.1 -0.3 123.5 -0.2
January 123.2 0.0 124.8 0.6 123.8 0.2

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, 2009-2017

Year Month Peak Month Bottom
2009 December 101.6 April 94.7
2013 November 119.1 January 114.3
2014 November 123.4 May 115.9
2015 October 123.0 December 120.8
2016 July 125.2 March 119.3
2017 (thru January) January 123.2 January 123.2

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

 

Table 2: Freight Transportation Services Index Monthly Changes, 2014-2017

Percent change from previous month

  2014 % Change 2015 % Change 2016 % Change 2017 % Change
January -1.5 -0.3 1.2 0.0
February 1.6 -1.1 -0.9  
March 1.0 0.3 -1.5  
April 0.8 -0.2 2.0  
May 0.6 0.6 0.0  
June -0.9 -0.5 0.8  
July 0.8 0.8 2.0  
August 0.5 0.1 -2.2  
September 0.2 -0.4 -1.2  
October 0.8 0.5 1.6  
November 0.8 -1.7 0.5  
December -0.2 -0.1 -0.2  

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

 

Table 2A: Freight Transportation Services Index by Month, 2014-2017

  2014 2015 2016 2017
January 115.9 122.8 122.2 123.2
February 117.8 121.5 121.1  
March 119.0 121.9 119.3  
April 120.0 121.7 121.7  
May 120.7 122.4 121.7  
June 119.6 121.8 122.7  
July 120.5 122.8 125.2  
August 121.1 122.9 122.5  
September 121.4 122.4 121.0  
October 122.4 123.0 122.9  
November 123.4 120.9 123.5  
December 123.2 120.8 123.2  

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

 

Table 3: Freight, Passenger and Combined Transportation Services Indexes Year-to-Date Change, 2008-2017

Percent change to January from December of the previous year

Year Freight Passenger Combined
2008 2.2 0.3 1.7
2009 -1.9 -0.6 -1.5
2010 1.4 0.2 1.1
2011 1.1 0.1 0.8
2012 -3.2 -0.3 -2.4
2013 1.8 1.0 1.5
2014 -1.5 0.0 -1.0
2015 -0.3 -0.7 -0.5
2016 1.2 -0.8 0.6
2017 0.0 0.6 0.2

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

 

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

Percent change in the January Freight TSI

(Monthly average of 2000 = 100)

  January Freight TSI Percent change from same month previous year
2008 113.2 3.2
2009 98.5 -13.0
2010 103.0 4.6
2011 110.0 6.8
2012 111.4 1.3
2013 114.3 2.6
2014 115.9 1.4
2015 122.8 6.0
2016 122.2 -0.5
2017 123.2 0.8

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 2017 (January to January)

Since January . . . Duration in years Freight TSI Percent change to January 2017 Passenger TSI Percent change to January 2017 Combined TSI Percent change to January 2017
2016 1 0.8 1.1 0.9
2015 2 0.3 3.9 1.5
2014 3 6.3 5.9 6.2
2013 4 7.8 6.5 7.5
2012 5 10.6 8.2 9.9
2011 6 12.0 10.2 11.4
2010 7 19.6 12.8 17.6
2009 8 25.1 13.8 21.5
2008 9 8.8 7.0 8.1
2007 10 12.3 9.6 11.3

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

 

Table 6: Passenger Transportation Services Index Monthly Changes, 2014-2017

Percent change from previous month

  2014 % Change 2015 % Change 2016 % Change 2017 % Change
January 0.0 -0.7 -0.8 0.6
February -0.8 -1.8 -0.1  
March 2.5 2.8 -1.1  
April -0.1 0.2 1.6  
May 0.5 0.2 0.2  
June -0.6 0.6 1.4  
July 0.1 2.0 -1.2  
August 0.4 -1.9 -1.4  
September -0.2 0.3 1.7  
October 0.4 1.4 -1.0  
November -0.6 -1.0 0.7  
December 0.9 0.9 -0.3  

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

 

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

Percent change in the January Passenger TSI

(Monthly average of 2000 = 100)

  January Passenger TSI Percent change from same month previous year
2008 116.6 2.4
2009 109.7 -5.9
2010 110.6 0.8
2011 113.3 2.4
2012 115.3 1.8
2013 117.2 1.6
2014 117.9 0.6
2015 120.1 1.9
2016 123.5 2.8
2017 124.8 1.1

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

NOTE: Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

 

Table 8: Combined Transportation Services Index Monthly Changes, 2014-2017

Percent change from previous month

  2014 % Change 2015 % Change 2016 % Change 2017 % Change
January -1.0 -0.5 0.6 0.2
February 0.9 -1.3 -0.7  
March 1.4 1.2 -1.3  
April 0.6 -0.1 1.8  
May 0.6 0.5 0.1  
June -0.8 -0.2 1.0  
July 0.6 1.2 1.1  
August 0.5 -0.6 -1.9  
September 0.1 -0.2 -0.3  
October 0.6 0.8 0.7  
November 0.5 -1.5 0.5  
December 0.2 0.2 -0.2  

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

 

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

Percent change in the January Combined TSI

(Monthly average of 2000 = 100)

  January Combined TSI Percent change from same month previous year
2008 114.5 3.0
2009 101.9 -11.0
2010 105.3 3.3
2011 111.1 5.5
2012 112.6 1.4
2013 115.2 2.3
2014 116.6 1.2
2015 122.0 4.6
2016 122.7 0.6
2017 123.8 0.9

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.

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, 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).