Transportation Services Index

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March 2019 Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI)

Release Number: 
BTS 19-19
Date: Wednesday, May 8, 2019
 

The Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI), which is based on the amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry, rose 0.4% in March from February, rising after a one-month decline. The index rose 1.3% from March 2018 compared to an increase of 8.2% from March 2017 to March 2018 (Table 4).

The level of for-hire freight shipments in March measured by the Freight TSI (136.2) was 1.6% below the all-time high level of 138.4 in November 2018 (Table 2A). BTS’ TSI records begin in 2000. See historical .

(Seasonally Adjusted, Monthly Average of 2000 = 100)
MonthFreight TSI
Mar-14119.9
Apr-14120.5
May-14120.9
Jun-14119.7
Jul-14120.4
Aug-14120.9
Sep-14121.9
Oct-14122.6
Nov-14123.3
Dec-14123.1
Jan-15122.8
Feb-15121.6
Mar-15122.5
Apr-15121.5
May-15121.7
Jun-15121.3
Jul-15122.4
Aug-15123.0
Sep-15123.1
Oct-15122.5
Nov-15120.9
Dec-15120.3
Jan-16122.0
Feb-16121.4
Mar-16120.1
Apr-16122.3
May-16121.6
Jun-16122.2
Jul-16125.2
Aug-16122.9
Sep-16121.7
Oct-16122.6
Nov-16123.3
Dec-16123.9
Jan-17123.7
Feb-17124.5
Mar-17124.2
Apr-17124.7
May-17124.9
Jun-17125.2
Jul-17127.6
Aug-17128.3
Sep-17127.6
Oct-17129.2
Nov-17131.2
Dec-17132.3
Jan-18130.3
Feb-18132.9
Mar-18134.4
Apr-18134.5
May-18135.7
Jun-18136.3
Jul-18135.3
Aug-18135.4
Sep-18136.3
Oct-18138.0
Nov-18138.4
Dec-18136.2
Jan-19137.4
Feb-19135.6
Mar-19136.2
Source: 

EmEdjimurjE

The February index was revised to 135.6 from 136.9 in last month’s release. The January index was revised down slightly.

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: The Freight TSI March increase of 0.4% was driven by growth in trucking, water and air freight, while pipeline, rail carloads, and rail intermodal declined. The TSI increase took place against a background of mixed results for other indicators. The  shrank by 0.1% in March, including an increase in utilities, a decline in mining, and no change in manufacturing.  increased by 0.1%, while housing starts declined by 1.7%. The  increased 1.1 points to 55.3, indicating accelerating growth.

Trend: The 0.4% increase in March returned the TSI to its level of June 2018, which was a new high that has since been exceeded. The index rose 13.5% from a recent low in March 2016 to that high in June 2018. Since then, the TSI has been stable, although there have been months with higher and lower levels between June 2018 and March 2019.

The Freight TSI was unchanged in the first quarter of 2019, the third successive quarter that the index was unchanged or almost unchanged. This period of stability in TSI followed seven consecutive quarters of growth. The March index was 43.7% above the April 2009 low during the most recent recession. For additional historical data, go to .

Index highs and lows: For-hire freight shipments in March 2019 (136.2) were 43.7% higher than the low in April 2009 during the recession (94.8). The March 2019 level was 1.6% below the historic peak reached in November 2018 (138.4).

Year-to-date: For-hire freight shipments measured by the index were unchanged in March compared to the end of 2018 (Table 3).

Long-term trend: For-hire freight shipments are up 13.6% in the five years from March 2014 and are up 42.2% in the 10 years from March 2009 (Table 5). 

Same month of previous year: March 2019 for-hire freight shipments were up 1.3% from March 2018 (Tables 4, 5).

1st quarter changes: The freight TSI was unchanged in the first quarter of 2019, the third consecutive quarter of virtually no change (Table 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. See for numbers for individual modes. TSI includes data from 2000 to the present. Release of the April 2019 index is scheduled for June 12.

Passenger Index: The TSI for passengers rose 0.2% in March from its February level (Table 6). The Passenger TSI March 2019 level of 130.4 was 1.2% above the March 2018 level (Table 7). The index is up 8.8% in five years and up 20.2% 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% in March from its February level (Table 8). The combined TSI March 2019 level of 134.3 was 1.3% above the March 2018 level (Table 9). The combined index is up 12.0% in five years and up 34.8% 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 , which includes freight, passenger and combined TSI, and which makes it possible to easily graph TSI alongside the other series in that database. See .   

A BTS report explaining the TSI, Transportation Services Index and the Economy, is available for download.

Percent Change from Previous Month, (Seasonally Adjusted, Monthly Average of 2000 = 100)
FreightPassengerCombined
IndexPct. Change IndexPct. Change IndexPct. Change
September136.30.7127.8-2.4133.6-0.2
October138.01.2131.02.5135.71.6
November138.40.3131.00.0136.00.2
December136.2-1.6130.3-0.5134.3-1.2
January137.40.9130.0-0.2135.00.5
February135.6-1.3130.20.2133.9-0.8
March136.20.4130.40.2134.30.3
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

EmEdjimurjE

YearMonthPeakMonthBottom
2009December101.6April94.8
2015December123.1December120.3
2016July125.2March120.1
2017December132.3January123.7
2018November138.4January130.3
2019(thru March)January137.4February135.6
Source: 

EmEdjimurjE

Percent change from previous month
2016201720182019
% Change% Change% Change% Change
January1.4-0.2-1.50.9
February-0.50.62.0-1.3
March-1.1-0.21.10.4
April1.80.40.1
May-0.60.20.9
June0.50.20.4
July2.51.9-0.7
August-1.80.50.1
September-1.0-0.50.7
October0.71.31.2
November0.61.50.3
December0.50.8-1.6
Source: 

EmEdjimurjE

2016201720182019
January122.0123.7130.3137.4
February121.4124.5132.9135.6
March120.1124.2134.4136.2
April122.3124.7134.5
May121.6124.9135.7
June122.2125.2136.3
July125.2127.6135.3
August122.9128.3135.4
September121.7127.6136.3
October122.6129.2138.0
November123.3131.2138.4
December123.9132.3136.2
Source: 

EmEdjimurjE

Percent change to March from December of the previous year
YearFreightPassengerCombined
20103.80.32.8
20112.00.41.5
2012-2.90.3-1.9
20133.10.32.3
20141.91.81.8
2015-0.50.5-0.2
2016-0.2-1.4-0.7
20170.20.20.2
20181.60.91.4
20190.00.10.0
Source: 

EmEdjimurjE

Percent change in the March Freight TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
March Freight TSIPercent change from same month previous year
2010105.510.1
2011110.95.1
2012111.70.7
2013115.83.7
2014119.93.5
2015122.52.2
2016120.1-2.0
2017124.23.4
2018134.48.2
2019136.21.3
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

EmEdjimurjE

Percent Change to 2019 (March to March)
Since March . . .Duration in yearsFreight TSI Percent change to March 2019Passenger TSI Percent change to March 2019Combined TSI Percent change to March 2019
201811.31.21.3
201729.73.77.6
2016313.46.311.0
2015411.27.59.9
2014513.68.812.0
2013617.612.215.8
2012721.912.418.7
2011822.814.920.2
2010929.117.825.4
20091042.220.234.8
Source: 

EmEdjimurjE

Percent change from previous month
2016201720182019
% Change% Change% Change% Change
January-0.40.7-0.4-0.2
February1.5-0.91.50.2
March-2.50.4-0.20.2
April1.11.00.6
May0.2-0.30.6
June0.60.30.8
July-0.50.2-0.1
August-1.0-0.2-0.4
September1.9-2.4-2.4
October-1.53.02.5
November0.90.50.0
December0.6-0.4-0.5
Source: 

EmEdjimurjE

Percent change in the March Passenger TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
March Passenger TSIPercent change from same month previous year
2010110.72.0
2011113.52.5
2012116.02.2
2013116.20.2
2014119.83.1
2015121.31.3
2016122.71.2
2017125.72.4
2018128.82.5
2019130.41.2
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

EmEdjimurjE

Percent change from previous month
2016201720182019
% Change% Change% Change% Change
January0.70.2-1.10.5
February0.20.11.9-0.8
March-1.60.00.70.3
April1.70.60.2
May-0.30.00.8
June0.50.20.5
July1.51.4-0.5
August-1.50.3-0.1
September-0.1-1.2-0.2
October0.01.81.6
November0.71.20.2
December0.60.5-1.2
Source: 

EmEdjimurjE

Percent change in the March Combined TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
March Combined TSIPercent change from same month previous year
2010107.17.5
2011111.74.3
2012113.11.3
2013116.02.6
2014119.93.4
2015122.21.9
2016121.0-1.0
2017124.83.1
2018132.66.3
2019134.31.3
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

EmEdjimurjE

Percent change from the last month of the previous quarter
Year1st Quarter (Jan-Mar) % Growth2nd Quarter (Apr-Jun) % Growth3rd Quarter (Jul-Sep) % Growth4th Quarter (Oct-Dec) % Growth
20103.80.90.51.6
20112.0-0.50.93.3
2012-2.91.7-1.50.4
20133.10.50.11.0
20141.9-0.21.81.0
2015-0.5-1.01.5-2.3
2016-0.21.7-0.41.8
20170.20.81.93.7
20181.61.40.0-0.1
20190.0
Source: 

EmEdjimurjE

Percent change from the last month of the previous quarter
Year1st Quarter (Jan-Mar) % Growth2nd Quarter (Apr-Jun) % Growth3rd Quarter (Jul-Sep) % Growth4th Quarter (Oct-Dec) % Growth
20100.31.01.3-0.1
20110.40.60.80.5
20120.3-0.70.40.2
20130.31.2-0.30.4
20141.8-0.50.60.7
20150.50.31.11.2
2016-1.42.00.30.0
20170.21.0-2.43.2
20180.92.1-2.82.0
20190.1
Source: 

EmEdjimurjE

Percent change from the last month of the previous quarter
Year1st Quarter (Jan-Mar) % Growth2nd Quarter (Apr-Jun) % Growth3rd Quarter (Jul-Sep) % Growth4th Quarter (Oct-Dec) % Growth
20102.81.00.61.1
20111.5-0.20.92.5
2012-1.90.9-0.90.3
20132.30.70.00.9
20141.8-0.31.50.8
2015-0.2-0.61.3-1.1
2016-0.71.8-0.21.2
20170.20.80.53.5
20181.41.6-0.80.5
20190.0
Source: 

EmEdjimurjE

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).

Updated: Wednesday, May 8, 2019