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 monthly high in September, 0.2 percent higher than the previous highest level reached one month earlier in August, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS).
The September 2017 index level (129.2) was 36.3 percent above the April 2009 low during the most recent recession.
The level of for-hire freight shipments in September measured by the Freight TSI (129.2) reached an all-time high for the third consecutive month. The 6.7 percent gain over September 2016 was the largest year-over-year rise since December 2010.
BTS’ TSI records begin 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 Freight TSI’s new all-time high of 129.2 in September was 0.2 percent above the previous all-time high set in August and 3.5 percent above the level of July 2016 (124.9), which was the highest level prior to 2017.
September was also the third all-time high in a row, and the fourth in five months. Every month since November 2016 has exceeded the level of all previous months except July 2016. All six of the Freight TSI’s all-time highest months have been in 2017. Each of these months exceeded the pre-2017 high in July 2016 by at least 1 percent.
Over the last six months, the index rose 3.8 percent with the third quarter 2.4 percent rise following the second quarter increase of 1.4 percent. The two consecutive quarterly increases were the first since the beginning of 2015.
Significant increases in trucking and pipeline led the September increase of 0.2 percent while other modes declined. The TSI increase took place against a background of mixed results for other indicators.
The Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production index rose by 0.3 percent in September, with increases in all sectors. Employment rose, personal income grew and the Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing index rose to 60.8, indicating accelerating growth. Meanwhile, housing starts fell by 4.5 percent.
The 2.4 percent increase in Freight TSI in the third quarter was consistent with the pace of growth in GDP, which was 3.0 percent in the third quarter. GDP growth had been 3.1 percent in the second quarter, when Freight TSI also grew. GDP growth was slower in the first quarter of 2017, when Freight TSI declined.
For-hire freight shipments in September 2017 (129.2) were 36.3 percent higher than the low in April 2009 during the recession (94.8). The September 2017 level reached its all-time high.
For-hire freight shipments measured by the index were up 3.7 percent in September compared to the end of 2016.
For-hire freight shipments are up 15.4 percent in the five years from September 2012 and are up 18.1 percent in the 10 years from September 2007.
Same month of previous year: September 2017 for-hire freight shipments were up 6.7 percent from September 2016.
The freight rose 2.4 percent in the third quarter, the second consecutive quarterly increase.
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.
The August index was revised to 129.0 from 130.7 in last month’s release. Monthly numbers for January through March and May were revised up slightly.