The Freight Transportation Services Index, which is based on the amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry, rose 1.4 percent in March from February, rising for the second consecutive month to reach an all-time high. The March 2018 index level of 130.8 was 38.0 percent above the April 2009 low during the most recent recession.
The new all-time high is 0.7 percent above the previous high in December 2017. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics began keeping TSI records in 2000.
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 March increase of 1.4 percent in the Freight TSI showed increases in all modes except pipeline, which was stable. The TSI increase took place against a background of mostly positive results for other indicators. The Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production index rose by 0.5 percent in December, with significant increases in mining and utilities and a very small increase in manufacturing. Personal income and housing starts grew.
Both the Freight TSI and Gross Domestic Product rose in each of the last four quarters although GDP generally grew faster. Just before those increases began, in the first quarter of 2017, GDP grew more slowly (only 1.2 percent), while the Freight TSI declined. GDP growth exceeded Freight TSI growth by 1.0 percentage points in the second quarter of 2017 and by 1.5 points in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, the Freight TSI rose by 0.3 points more than GDP. Growth in both measures decelerated again in the first quarter of 2018 with the TSI 0.7 percent rise trailing the GDP 2.3 percent growth rate by 1.6 points.
As for a long-term trend, for-hire freight shipments are up 13.1 percent in the five years from March 2013 and are up 19.2 percent in the 10 years from March 2008.
The February index was revised to 129.0 from 127.6 in last month’s release. The January index remains unchanged from last month’s release.