Transportation Services Index

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July 2019 Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI)

Release Number: 
BTS 37-19
Date: Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI), which is based on the amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry, rose 0.9% in July from June, rising to a new all-time high after declining for two consecutive months, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS). From July 2018 to July 2019, the index rose 2.9% compared to a rise of 6.0% from July 2017 to July 2018 (Tables 1, 2, and 2A).

 
 
(Seasonally Adjusted, Monthly Average of 2000 = 100)
MonthFreight TSI
Jul-14120.4
Aug-14120.9
Sep-14121.7
Oct-14122.5
Nov-14123.2
Dec-14123.1
Jan-15122.9
Feb-15121.6
Mar-15122.6
Apr-15121.5
May-15121.8
Jun-15121.3
Jul-15122.3
Aug-15123.0
Sep-15122.9
Oct-15122.5
Nov-15120.8
Dec-15120.3
Jan-16122.0
Feb-16121.4
Mar-16120.2
Apr-16122.4
May-16121.6
Jun-16122.3
Jul-16125.2
Aug-16122.8
Sep-16121.6
Oct-16122.6
Nov-16123.2
Dec-16123.9
Jan-17123.7
Feb-17124.5
Mar-17124.4
Apr-17124.8
May-17124.8
Jun-17125.3
Jul-17127.5
Aug-17128.2
Sep-17127.5
Oct-17129.2
Nov-17131.2
Dec-17132.3
Jan-18130.2
Feb-18132.9
Mar-18134.7
Apr-18134.6
May-18135.6
Jun-18136.4
Jul-18135.1
Aug-18135.3
Sep-18136.3
Oct-18138.0
Nov-18138.7
Dec-18136.2
Jan-19137.4
Feb-19135.7
Mar-19136.6
Apr-19138.2
May-19138.1
Jun-19137.7
Jul-19139.0
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

The June index was revised to 137.7 from 138.0 in last month’s release. BTS’ TSI records begin in 2000. See historical TSI data.

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 Freight TSI 0.9% rise was broad based with increases in rail carloads, rail intermodal, trucking, pipeline and air freight. There was a small decline in water transportation. The TSI increase took place against a background of mixed results for other indicators. The Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production Index declined in July, reflecting decreases in mining and manufacturing and an increase in utilities. Personal income increased by 0.1%, while housing starts declined by 4.0%. The Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing index decreased 0.5 points to 51.2, indicating continued but slowing growth.

Trend: The July increase of 0.9% brought TSI to a record high level. Despite small decreases in both May (-0.1%) and June (-0.3%), the July index was 0.6% over its April level and 0.2% over its previous record high in November 2018. The record high level was reached even though the index increased in only four of the eight months since November. From a low point in March 2016, the index climbed 12.8% until reaching a new high in May 2018. From that point, the index has exceeded its levels in all months prior to May 2018. The July 2019 index was 46.6% 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 2019 (139.0) were 46.6% higher than the low in April 2009 during the recession (94.8). The July 2019 level reached its all-time high (Table 1A).

Year-to-date: For-hire freight shipments measured by the index were up 2.1% in July compared to the end of 2018 (Table 3).

Long-term trend: For-hire freight shipments are up 15.4% in the five years from July 2014 and are up 41.4% in the 10 years from July 2009 (Table 5). 

Same month of previous year: July 2019 for-hire freight shipments were up 2.9% from July 2018 (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 2019 index is scheduled for Oct. 9.

Passenger Index: The TSI for passengers rose 0.4% in July from its June level (Table 6).  The Passenger TSI July 2019 level of 135.2 was 3.0% above the July 2018 level (Table 7). The index is up 13.1% in five years and up 23.0% 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 0.7% in July from its June level (Table 8). The combined TSI July 2019 level of 137.8 was 2.9% above the July 2018 level (Table 9). The combined index is up 14.6% in five years and up 35.4% 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.   

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
January137.40.9130.70.1135.20.6
February135.7-1.2130.6-0.1134.0-0.9
March136.60.7134.63.1136.01.5
April138.21.2133.2-1.0136.60.4
May138.1-0.1135.11.4137.20.4
June137.7-0.3134.6-0.4136.8-0.3
July139.00.9135.20.4137.80.7
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

YearMonthPeakMonthBottom
2009December101.6April94.8
2015August123.0December120.3
2016July125.2March120.2
2017December132.3January123.7
2018November138.7January130.2
2019(thru July)July139.0February135.7
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from previous month
2016201720182019
% Change% Change% Change% Change
January1.4-0.2-1.60.9
February-0.50.62.1-1.2
March-1.0-0.11.40.7
April1.80.3-0.11.2
May-0.70.00.7-0.1
June0.60.40.6-0.3
July2.41.8-1.00.9
August-1.90.50.1
September-1.0-0.50.7
October0.81.31.2
November0.51.50.5
December0.60.8-1.8
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

2016201720182019
January122.0123.7130.2137.4
February121.4124.5132.9135.7
March120.2124.4134.7136.6
April122.4124.8134.6138.2
May121.6124.8135.6138.1
June122.3125.3136.4137.7
July125.2127.5135.1139.0
August122.8128.2135.3
September121.6127.5136.3
October122.6129.2138.0
November123.2131.2138.7
December123.9132.3136.2
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change to July from December of the previous year
YearFreightPassengerCombined
20105.21.44.1
20111.61.91.6
2012-1.4-0.9-1.2
20133.30.52.5
20142.31.52.0
2015-0.63.00.6
20164.1-0.22.6
20172.91.12.2
20182.12.62.3
20192.13.52.5
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the July Freight TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
July Freight TSIPercent change from same month previous year
2010106.98.7
2011110.43.3
2012113.42.7
2013115.92.2
2014120.43.9
2015122.31.6
2016125.22.4
2017127.51.8
2018135.16.0
2019139.02.9
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent Change to 2019 (July to July)
Since July . . .Duration in yearsFreight TSI Percent change to July 2019Passenger TSI Percent change to July 2019Combined TSI Percent change to July 2019
201812.93.02.9
201729.06.58.2
2016311.08.710.2
2015413.78.811.9
2014515.413.114.6
2013619.916.118.6
2012722.617.921.0
2011825.917.323.1
2010930.020.727.0
20091041.423.035.4
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from previous month
2016201720182019
% Change% Change% Change% Change
January-0.30.9-0.20.1
February1.4-1.21.1-0.1
March-2.50.4-0.23.1
April1.01.00.6-1.0
May0.2-0.60.31.4
June0.60.40.9-0.4
July-0.50.2-0.10.4
August-1.0-0.2-0.2
September1.9-2.3-2.3
October-1.53.02.5
November1.00.60.1
December0.6-0.3-0.5
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the July Passenger TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
July Passenger TSIPercent change from same month previous year
2010112.01.9
2011115.32.9
2012114.7-0.5
2013116.51.6
2014119.52.6
2015124.34.0
2016124.40.1
2017127.02.1
2018131.23.3
2019135.23.0
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from previous month
2016201720182019
% Change% Change% Change% Change
January0.80.1-1.10.6
February0.10.11.8-0.9
March-1.50.10.81.5
April1.60.60.20.4
May-0.3-0.20.50.4
June0.60.30.7-0.3
July1.41.3-0.70.7
August-1.60.30.0
September-0.1-1.1-0.2
October0.11.81.6
November0.71.20.4
December0.60.5-1.4
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the July Combined TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
July Combined TSIPercent change from same month previous year
2010108.56.6
2011111.93.1
2012113.91.8
2013116.22.0
2014120.23.4
2015123.12.4
2016125.01.5
2017127.41.9
2018133.95.1
2019137.82.9
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).

Updated: Thursday, September 12, 2019