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BTS Statistics Release: Revised November 2015 Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI)

The Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI), which is based on the amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry, fell 0.9 percent in November from October, falling after a one-month rise, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS). The November 2015 index level (122.0) was 28.8 percent above the April 2009 low during the most recent recession.

October and November index numbers in the press release of Jan. 13 have been revised because of a revision in the October air traffic data used for the index. The October Freight TSI is revised to 123.1. It appeared as 123.5 in the Jan. 13 release. The November Freight TSI is revised to 122.0. It appeared as 122.3 in the Jan. 13 release.

The level of freight shipments in November measured by the Freight TSI (122.0) was 1.4 percent below the all-time high level of 123.7 in November 2014. BTS’ TSI records begin in 2000.

The Freight TSI measures the month-to-month changes in 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.

Analysis: The Freight TSI decrease was unusually broad in terms of mode – all freight modes decreased. The decrease appears to have been driven by weakness in the mining (including oil and gas well drilling and servicing) and manufacturing sectors of the economy. The Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production index declined in November by 0.6 percent, and the ISM Manufacturing Index was below 50, indicating declining manufacturing activity.  Elevated inventory to sales ratios may have also played a role.

Trend: The November 2015 Freight TSI decreased by 0.9 percent, leaving it 0.5 percent below its September level. The November decrease was the largest since February 2015. After fluctuations since February, the November TSI was 1.4 percent below the November 2014 high point. The index remains high compared to earlier years however, and has increased by 28.8 percent since its low of 94.7 in April 2009.

Year to date: Freight shipments measured by the index were down 1.1 percent in November compared to the end of 2014 (Table 3).

See Freight TSI Press Release for summary tables and additional data. See Transportation Services Index for historical data and methodology.