The amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry fell 1.2 percent in April from March, declining after five consecutive monthly increases, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS) Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI) released today. The April 2013 index level (112.4) was 18.5 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 April measured by the Freight TSI (112.4) was 2.4 percent below the all-time high level of 115.2 in December 2011 (Table 2A). 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.
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 1.2% decline in freight transportation was driven by declines in shipments by water, pipeline shipments, and rail intermodal. Waterborne freight reductions in April were partially due to floods and barge accidents that interfered with river operations. Trucking was stable in April on a seasonally adjusted basis. The stability in trucking, the decline in rail intermodal, and the decline in the overall Freight TSI were consistent with a slight decline in manufacturing output, and a larger decline in housing that took place in April.
Trend: Even with the April decrease to 112.4, the index has remained above its 2012 range for four consecutive months. The April level is a return to the level of January 2013, prior to increases in February and March. The April index was still higher than the index had been during any month between April 2009 and the beginning of 2013 except for December 2011, when it reached the all-time high. After dipping to 94.8 in April 2009, the index rose 18.5 percent in the succeeding 48 months.
Index highs and lows: Freight shipments in April 2013 (112.4) were 18.5 percent higher than the all-time low in April 2009 during the recession (94.8). The April 2013 level is down 2.4 percent from the historic peak reached in December 2011 (115.2).