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BTS releases December 2014 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, was virtually unchanged in December from November, failing to rise after five consecutive months of increases, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS). The December 2014 index level (123.8) was 30.9 percent above the April 2009 low during the most recent recession. 

The level of freight shipments in December measured by the Freight TSI (123.8) was less than one-tenth of 1 percent below the all-time high level of 123.9 in November 2014. BTS’ TSI records begin in 2000. 

The November index was revised to 123.9 from 123.2 in last month’s release but still remains an all-time high. July, September and October indexes were also revised up while the August index was revised down. 

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: Trucking, rail carloads, and waterborne grew in December but air freight, pipeline, and rail intermodal decreased, resulting in the overall freight index remaining almost level. While the economy as measured by income and employment grew in December, it is notable that inventories, closely tied to freight transportation, declined in December for the first time in 19 months. 

Trend: The Freight TSI was essentially stable in December, down slightly from an all-time high after increases for five consecutive months. Fourth quarter 2014 represented the second consecutive quarter of rapid growth after stability in the first half of the year. The third and fourth quarters of 2014 were the first two consecutive quarters with growth above 1.5% since the first quarter of 2010. Fourth-quarter growth (1.7 percent) was slower than growth in the third quarter (2.4 percent). After dipping to 94.6 in April 2009, the index rose 30.9 percent in the succeeding 68 months.  

Index highs and lows: Freight shipments in December 2014 (123.8) were 30.9 percent higher than the recent low in April 2009 during the recession (94.6). The December 2014 level was below the historic peak reached in November 2014 (123.9). 

Year to date: Freight shipments measured by the index were up 4.2 percent in December compared to the end of 2013. 

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