The level of for-hire freight shipments in May measured by the Freight Transportation Services Index reached its all-time high at 126.8, exceeding the previous high of 126.0 in February 2017.
The May index level was 33.9 percent above the April 2009 low during the most recent recession. The May index also rose 2.2 percent from April, rising after a two-month decline.
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.
The May increase in the Freight TSI was broad based with gains in most modes, especially water and pipeline, while air freight and trucking were stable. The increase took place despite mixed performance in other indicators in May. Employment and Personal Income both grew in May, and the Institute for Supply Management’s Purchasing Managers’ Index showed positive and accelerating growth. However, housing starts declined, and the Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production index was unchanged, with a decline in manufacturing offset by increases in mining and utility output.
For-hire freight shipments are up 12.5 percent in the five years from May 2012 and are up 15.0 percent in the 10 years from May 2007.
Bureau of Transportation Statistics research has shown a clear relationship between economic cycles and the Freight and Passenger Transportation Services Indexes.