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BTS releases freight Transportation Services Index (TSI)
Freight shipments rose 0.3% in March from February

The amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry rose 0.3 percent in March from February, rising for the fifth consecutive month, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS) Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI) released today. The March 2013 index level (113.7) was 19.9 percent above the April 2009 low during the most recent recession. BTS, a part of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration, reported that the level of freight shipments in March measured by the Freight TSI (113.7) was 1.3 percent below the all-time high level of 115.2 in December 2011. 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. The TSI is seasonally adjusted so that trends reflect changes beyond normal monthly fluctuations. 

Beginning with the April release, BTS improved procedures and refined the TSI methodology. As a result there have been minor changes in monthly numbers released previously. Documentation will be made available in the near future. 

Analysis: The Freight TSI increased for a fifth consecutive month in March 2013, though more slowly than the average growth of the index in that period. There was growth across most freight modes but seasonally adjusted rail traffic declined. Shipments of coal and grain by rail showed year-to-year declines, not seasonally adjusted. 

Trend: With the March increase to 113.7, the index has exceeded its 2012 range for three months in a row. With five consecutive monthly increases, the March index was at its second highest level since April 2009 during the recession exceeded only by December 2011. The March increase followed the index reaching the third highest level since April 2009 one month earlier in February. After dipping to 94.8 in April 2009, the index rose 19.9 percent in the succeeding 47 months.  

Index highs and lows: Freight shipments in March 2013 (113.7) were 19.9 percent higher than the all-time low in April 2009 during the recession (94.8). The March 2013 level is down 1.3 percent from the historic peak reached in December 2011 (115.2). 

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