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BTS releases freight Transportation Services Index (TSI)
Freight shipments fell 0.7% in October from September

The amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry fell 0.7 percent in October from September, the first monthly decline after three months of increases, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS) Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI) released today. The October 2013 index level (114.3) was 20.5 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 October measured by the Freight TSI (114.3) was 0.7 percent below the all-time high level of 115.1 in September 2013. BTS’ TSI records begin in 2000. 

The September index was revised to 115.1 from 115.8 in last month’s release but still remains an all-time high. Monthly numbers for May through August were revised down slightly as were August and September 2012. October and November 2012 were revised up. 

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. 

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 0.7 percent decrease in October freight transportation was driven by decreases in air freight, rail carloads and particularly in trucking. The decrease follows three months of increases during the July through September quarter. During the quarter, Revised Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of 3.6 percent was heavily driven by an increase in private inventories – which may have accounted for much of the TSI growth. The Census Bureau’s report on manufacturers shows that increase in inventories of manufacturers continued in October.

Trend: The Freight TSI remained above its 2012 range for the 10th month in a row. Beginning with January, every month in 2013 has exceeded the high point of 2012, 112.2 reached in December. The September 2013 level was the highest all-time level for the index. After dipping to 94.8 in April 2009, the index rose 22.1 percent in the succeeding 53 months. 

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