Transportation Services Index

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July 2017 Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI)

Release Number: 
BTS 44-17
Date: 
Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI), which is based on the amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry, reached an all-time high, rising 1.4 percent in July from June, after a one month decline, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS). The July 2017 index level (128.2) was 35.4 percent above the April 2009 low during the most recent recession (Tables 1, 2, and 2A).

(Seasonally Adjusted, Monthly Average of 2000 = 100)
View Table Data
MonthFreight TSI
Jul-12113.3
Aug-12112.6
Sep-12112.0
Oct-12110.2
Nov-12112.2
Dec-12112.2
Jan-13114.2
Feb-13115.7
Mar-13115.8
Apr-13114.7
May-13115.8
Jun-13116.3
Jul-13115.8
Aug-13116.6
Sep-13116.6
Oct-13116.5
Nov-13119.0
Dec-13117.9
Jan-14115.8
Feb-14117.9
Mar-14119.5
Apr-14120.1
May-14120.5
Jun-14119.7
Jul-14120.3
Aug-14121.2
Sep-14121.3
Oct-14122.2
Nov-14123.4
Dec-14123.1
Jan-15122.7
Feb-15121.6
Mar-15123.1
Apr-15121.8
May-15122.4
Jun-15122.0
Jul-15122.4
Aug-15122.9
Sep-15122.3
Oct-15123.0
Nov-15120.9
Dec-15120.9
Jan-16122.4
Feb-16121.4
Mar-16120.6
Apr-16122.0
May-16121.9
Jun-16122.9
Jul-16124.8
Aug-16122.5
Sep-16121.1
Oct-16122.9
Nov-16123.6
Dec-16124.7
Jan-17124.3
Feb-17126.1
Mar-17124.4
Apr-17124.3
May-17127.3
Jun-17126.4
Jul-17128.2
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

The level of for-hire freight shipments in July measured by the Freight TSI (128.2) reached its all-time high, 0.7 percent above the previous high reached in May (127.3) (Table 2A). July was the third month in 2017 in which the freight index reached an all-time high. During the first seven months of 2017, the freight index averaged 2.9 percent higher than the first seven months of 2016.  BTS’ TSI records begin in 2000. See historical TSI data.

The June index was revised to 126.4 from 126.2 in last month’s release. Monthly numbers for April and May were revised up 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 July increase in the Freight TSI was driven by gains in trucking, pipeline and water, while rail carloads decreased and air freight and rail intermodal were stable. The increase took place against a background of growth in several other indicators in July. Employment and Personal Income both increased, while the Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production index grew by 0.4 percent, with gains in mining and utilities even as the manufacturing index was down. The Institute for Supply Management’s Purchasing Managers’ Index showed positive but slowing growth. However, housing starts declined in July.

Trend: The Freight TSI reached a new all-time high of 128.1 in July –1.4 percent above the previous month, 0.7 percent higher than the previous all-time high set just two months earlier in May, and 2.7 percent above the level of July 2016, the highest level prior to 2017. July was the third month in a row in which the Freight TSI exceeded the level of all months prior to 2017, and the fourth month in 2017 when it did. Since July 2016, the Freight TSI has reached or exceeded the level of 124.3 (which it did not reach until July 2016) in nine months out of 13, and in all months from December 2016 on. The July index was 35.4 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 July 2017 (128.2) were 35.4 percent higher than the low in April 2009 during the recession (94.7). The July 2017 level reached its all-time high (Table 1A).

Year to date: For-hire freight shipments measured by the index were up 2.8 percent in July compared to the end of 2016 (Table 3).

Long-term trend: For-hire freight shipments are up 13.2 percent in the five years from July 2012 and are up 17.9 percent in the 10 years from July 2007 (Table 5). 

Same month of previous year: July 2017 for-hire freight shipments were up 2.7 percent from July 2016 (124.8), which had been the all-time high prior to 2017 (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 August index is scheduled for Oct. 12.

Passenger Index: The TSI for passengers did not change from June to July (Table 6). The Passenger TSI July 2017 level of 127.5 was 2.3 percent above the July 2016 level (Table 7). The index is up 11.2 percent in five years and up 9.7 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 1.0 percent in July from its June level (Table 8). The combined TSI July 2017 level of 128.1 was 2.6 percent above the July 2016 level (Table 9). The combined index is up 12.6 percent in five years and up 15.3 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.

Percent Change from Previous Month, (Seasonally Adjusted, Monthly Average of 2000 = 100)
View Table Data
FreightPassengerCombined
IndexPct. Change IndexPct. Change IndexPct. Change
January124.3-0.3125.40.3124.7-0.1
February126.11.4123.6-1.4125.40.6
March124.4-1.3125.01.1124.7-0.6
April124.3-0.1126.51.2125.10.3
May127.32.4126.4-0.1127.11.6
June126.4-0.7127.50.9126.8-0.2
July128.21.4127.50.0128.11.0
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

View Table Data
YearMonthPeakMonthBottom
2009December101.6April94.7
2013November119.0January114.2
2014November123.4March115.8
2015December123.1November120.9
2016July124.8March120.6
2017(thru July)July128.2January124.3
Source: 

 Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from previous month
View Table Data
2014201520162017
% Change% Change% Change% Change
January-1.8-0.31.2-0.3
February1.8-0.9-0.81.4
March1.41.2-0.7-1.3
April0.5-1.11.2-0.1
May0.30.5-0.12.4
June-0.7-0.30.8-0.7
July0.50.31.51.4
August0.70.4-1.8
September0.1-0.5-1.1
October0.70.61.5
November1.0-1.70.6
December-0.20.00.9
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

View Table Data
2014201520162017
January115.8122.7122.4124.3
February117.9121.6121.4126.1
March119.5123.1120.6124.4
April120.1121.8122.0124.3
May120.5122.4121.9127.3
June119.7122.0122.9126.4
July120.3122.4124.8128.2
August121.2122.9122.5
September121.3122.3121.1
October122.2123.0122.9
November123.4120.9123.6
December123.1120.9124.7
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change to July from December of the previous year
View Table Data
YearFreightPassengerCombined
20080.4-0.10.2
2009-2.0-0.4-1.5
20105.31.44.1
20111.41.91.6
2012-1.6-0.8-1.4
20133.20.52.4
20142.01.61.9
2015-0.63.20.6
20163.20.22.2
20172.82.02.6
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the July Freight TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
View Table Data
July Freight TSIPercent change from same month previous year
2008111.12.2
200998.4-11.4
2010107.08.7
2011110.33.1
2012113.32.7
2013115.82.2
2014120.33.9
2015122.41.7
2016124.82.0
2017128.22.7
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent Change to 2017 (July to July)
View Table Data
Since July . . .Duration in yearsFreight TSI Percent change to July 2017Passenger TSI Percent change to July 2017Combined TSI Percent change to July 2017
201612.72.32.6
201524.72.34.0
201436.66.56.6
2013410.79.410.3
2012513.211.212.6
2011616.210.614.5
2010719.813.818.1
2009830.315.925.8
2008915.49.713.6
20071017.99.715.3
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from previous month
View Table Data
2014201520162017
% Change% Change% Change% Change
January0.0-0.6-0.70.3
February0.1-0.91.0-1.4
March1.72.0-1.81.1
April-0.20.11.31.2
May0.60.30.3-0.1
June-0.70.21.00.9
July0.22.0-0.80.0
August0.5-1.8-1.4
September-0.20.41.8
October0.31.4-1.0
November-0.5-0.90.8
December0.80.60.2
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the July Passenger TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
View Table Data
July Passenger TSIPercent change from same month previous year
2008116.20.0
2009110.0-5.3
2010112.01.8
2011115.32.9
2012114.7-0.5
2013116.51.6
2014119.72.7
2015124.64.1
2016124.60.0
2017127.52.3
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from previous month
View Table Data
2014201520162017
% Change% Change% Change% Change
January-1.4-0.50.6-0.1
February1.4-0.9-0.20.6
March1.41.5-1.1-0.6
April0.3-0.71.20.3
May0.50.40.11.6
June-0.7-0.20.8-0.2
July0.40.90.81.0
August0.7-0.2-1.7
September0.0-0.2-0.2
October0.60.80.7
November0.5-1.50.6
December0.20.20.6
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the July Combined TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
View Table Data
July Combined TSIPercent change from same month previous year
2008112.81.5
2009101.8-9.8
2010108.56.6
2011111.93.1
2012113.81.7
2013116.12.0
2014120.23.5
2015123.22.5
2016124.81.3
2017128.12.6
Notes: 

 Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

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, 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).