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BTS releases freight Transportation Services Index (TSI)

The amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry rose 1.6 percent in March from February, rising for the second 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 2014 index level (116.7) was 23.2 percent above the April 2009 low during the most recent recession. 

The level of freight shipments in March measured by the seasonally-adjusted Freight TSI (116.7) was 0.8 percent below the all-time high level of 117.7 in November 2013. BTS’ TSI records begin in 2000. 

The February index was revised to 114.9 from 115.2 in last month’s release. The monthly numbers for October through January were all revised up slightly. 

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 March increase in the freight index reflected growth in all modes except pipeline. Trucking and rail intermodal grew most rapidly. March was the second month in a row that trucking and rail intermodal were the fastest growing modes. The growth in trucking represented continued recovery from unusually severe winter weather that hampered freight shipments in earlier months. Severe weather can affect the demand for goods to ship as well as the ability to move goods. The decline in the Freight TSI in December and January and its rebound in the succeeding two months took place while GDP growth slowed to an annualized rate of 0.1 percent during the first quarter of 2014 from 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Trend: The freight TSI increased for the second consecutive month after declining in the two previous months. Freight shipments in March were at the third highest all-time level, below only the two highest months: November and December 2013. After dipping to 94.8 in April 2009, the index rose by 23.2 percent in the succeeding 59 months.

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