US Freight Transportation Services Index up 1.2% to 138.9 in January from 137.3 in December due to rise in water, pipeline, trucking, while air freight, rail carloads, rail intermodal fell; index up 1.7% year-over-year from 136.6: Dept. of Transportation

Sample article from our Logistic & Supply Chain

March 11, 2022 (press release) –

 

The Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI), which is based on the amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry, rose 1.2% in January from December, rising for the fifth consecutive month, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS). From January 2021 to January 2022 the index rose 1.7 percent compared to a rise of 0.1 percent from January 2020 to January 2021 and a decline of 1.5 percent from January 2019 to January 2020 (Tables 1, 2, and 2A). For-hire freight does not include the operations of fleets owned by retailers or other non-transportation companies referred to as private fleets.

The level of for-hire freight shipments in January measured by the Freight TSI (138.9) was 1.8% above the level of 136.5 in pre-pandemic January 2020 and was 2.3% below the all-time high level of 142.1 in August 2019 (Table 2A). BTS TSI records begin in 2000. See historical TSI data.

The December 2021 index was revised upward to 137.8 from the 136.4 announced in last month’s release. That revision reverts the reported December 2021 decrease to an increase from November 2021 and positions December 2021 as the fourth consecutive month of TSI increase.

BTS is withholding the scheduled release of the passenger and combined indexes for January. The passenger index for January is a statistical estimate of airline passenger travel and other components based on historical trends up to December 2022. The statistical estimate does not fully account for the rapidly changing impacts of the coronavirus on the historical trend. Air freight for January is also a statistical estimate. Since air freight makes up a smaller part of the freight index, the freight TSI is being released as scheduled with the air freight estimate included. The December passenger and combined indexes are available on the BTS website.

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 seasonal movement, which enables month-to-month comparisons.

Analysis: The Freight TSI increased 1.2% in January from December due to seasonally adjusted increases in water, pipeline, and trucking while air freight, rail carloads, and rail intermodal declined.

The January increase came in the context of mixed results for other indicators. The Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production (IP) Index grew by 1.4% in January, reflecting increases of 0.2% in manufacturing, 9.9% in utilities, and 1.0% in mining. Housing starts were down 4.1%, and personal income increased by less than 0.1%.

The Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing (ISM) index was down 1.2 points to 57.6, indicating slowing growth in manufacturing.

Although the January Passenger TSI is being withheld because of the previously cited difficulty of estimating airline passenger travel and other components, the December index is now being released. The index decreased 1.0% from November to December following an increase of 6.5% in November. Seasonally adjusted transit grew; air passenger travel declined; and rail passenger travel was stable.

The Passenger TSI has now exceeded its level in March 2020 —the first month of the pandemic— for seven months in a row but remains below its pre-pandemic level (February 2020) for the 22nd consecutive month.

Trend: The January freight index increase was the fifth consecutive month-over-month increase, for a total increase of 3.4% since August 2021. This followed four months of decline and left the index 1.1% above its level of April 2021. The January Freight TSI is 11.0% above the pandemic low in April 2020; the increase in January was the 14th increase in the 21 months since that low. The index is 2.3% below its record level of 142.1 set in August 2019 and has increased in 14 of the 29 months since that peak. It is now at its highest point since that record level.

For additional historical data, please consult TSI data.

Index highs and lows: For-hire freight shipments in January 2022 (138.9) were 46.2% higher than the low in April 2009 during the recession (95.0). The January 2022 level was 2.3% below the historic peak reached in August 2019 (142.1) (Table 1A).

Year to date: For-hire freight shipments measured by the index were up 1.2% in January compared to the end of 2021 (Table 3).

Long-term trend: For-hire freight shipments are up 12.0% in the five years from January 2017 and are up 24.6% in the 10 years from January 2012 (Table 5). 

Same month of previous year: January 2022 for-hire freight shipments were up 1.7% from January 2021 (Tables 4, 5).

The TSI has three seasonally-adjusted indices that measure changes from the monthly average of the base year of 2000. These are freight shipments, passenger travel, and a combined measure that merges the freight and passenger indices. See Seasonally-Adjusted Transportation Data for numbers for individual modes. TSI includes data from 2000 to the present. Release of the February 2022 index is scheduled for April 13, 2022.

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.

About the TSI: 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 databas, 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 charts and discussion on the relationship of the TSI to the economy, see Transportation as an Economic Indicator: Transportation Services Index.

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

 

Table 1: Freight Transportation Services Index since July 2021
Percent Change from Previous Month
(Seasonally-Adjusted, Monthly Average of 2000 = 100)

 

Freight

Index

Pct. Change 

July

134.8

-1.2

August

134.3

-0.4

September

135.1

0.6

October

136.2

0.8

November

136.8

0.4

December

137.3

0.4

January

138.9

1.2

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics. See Transportation Services Index for documentation, data and other background information.
NOTE: Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

 

Table 1A: Annual High and Low Points in Freight Transportation Services Index, 2009-2022

Year

 

Month

Peak

 

Month

Bottom

2009

December

101.8

 

April

95.0

2018

November

139.6

 

January

131.7

2019

August

142.1

 

December

136.8

2020

January

136.5

 

April

125.1

2021

April

137.4

 

February

133.3

2022

(thru January)

January

138.9

 

January

138.9

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics. See Transportation Services Index for documentation, data and other background information.

 

Table 2: Freight Transportation Services Index Monthly Changes, 2019-2022
Percent change from previous month

 

2019

2020

2021

2022

 

% Change

% Change

% Change

% Change

January

0.7

-0.2

1.2

1.2

February

-0.6

-0.1

-2.4

 

March

0.1

-1.0

1.8

 

April

0.7

-7.3

1.3

 

May

0.5

1.7

-0.3

 

June

-0.4

1.7

-0.4

 

July

0.7

3.6

-1.2

 

August

1.4

-1.1

-0.4

 

September

-2.5

0.4

0.6

 

October

-0.2

0.4

0.8

 

November

0.0

-0.4

0.4

 

December

-1.1

1.6

0.4

 

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics. See Transportation Services Index for documentation, data and other background information.

 

 

Table 2A: Freight Transportation Services Index by Month, 2019-2022

 

2019

2020

2021

2022

January

138.6

136.5

136.6

138.9

February

137.8

136.3

133.3

 

March

138.0

134.9

135.7

 

April

139.0

125.1

137.4

 

May

139.7

127.2

137.0

 

June

139.2

129.3

136.5

 

July

140.2

133.9

134.8

 

August

142.1

132.4

134.3

 

September

138.6

132.9

135.1

 

October

138.3

133.4

136.2

 

November

138.3

132.9

136.8

 

December

136.8

135.0

137.3

 

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics. See Transportation Services Index for documentation, data and other background information.

 

 

Table 3: Freight Transportation Services Index Year-to-Date Change, 2013-2022
Percent change to January from December of the previous year

Year

Freight

2013

2.0

2014

-1.3

2015

-0.2

2016

1.5

2017

-0.6

2018

-1.5

2019

0.7

2020

-0.2

2021

1.2

2022

1.2

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics. See Transportation Services Index for documentation, data and other background information.

 

 

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

2013

114.5

2.7

2014

116.3

1.6

2015

123.0

5.8

2016

122.5

-0.4

2017

124.0

1.2

2018

131.7

6.2

2019

138.6

5.2

2020

136.5

-1.5

2021

136.6

0.1

2022

138.9

1.7

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics. See Transportation Services Index for documentation, data and other background information.
NOTE: Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

 

Table 5: Freight Transportation Services Index from Previous Years
Percent Change to 2022 (January to January)

Since January        . . .

Duration in years

Freight TSI Percent change to January 2022

2021

1

1.7

2020

2

1.8

2019

3

0.2

2018

4

5.5

2017

5

12.0

2016

6

13.4

2015

7

12.9

2014

8

19.4

2013

9

21.3

2012

10

24.6

SOURCE: Bureau of Transportation Statistics. See Transportation Services Index for documentation, data and other background information.

 

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).

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