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Freight Shipments Rose 1.2% in May from April

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Five Years: Freight Transportation Services Index, May 2008- May 2013

Five Years: Freight Transportation Services Index, May 2008- May 2013

Source for Recession Dates: National Bureau of Economic Research, US Business Cycle Expansions and Contractions

The amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry rose 1.2 percent in May from April, rising after a one month decline, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS) Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI) released today. The May 2013 index level (114.3) was 20.6 percent above the April 2009 low during the most recent recession (Tables 1, 2, and 2A).

BTS, a part of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration, reported that the level of freight shipments in May measured by the Freight TSI (114.3) was 0.8 percent below (Table 3) the all-time high level of 115.2 in December 2011 (Table 2A). BTS’ TSI records begin in 2000. See historical TSI data.

The April index was revised to 112.9 from 112.4 in the previous release. Monthly numbers for each month from December through March were also revised, showing slightly higher index levels.

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 1.2 percent May increase in freight transportation was driven by growth in in shipments by truck and rail accompanying broader signs of strength in the general economy.  Housing starts grew particularly fast in May, up 6.8 percent [from April?], which would be important for the Freight TSI since heavy construction materials produce growth in freight tonnage. The American Trucking Associations has reported that heavy bulk truck freight is growing faster than dry van shipments.

Trend: With the May increase to 114.3, the index has exceeded its 2012 range for five months in a row. The May 2013 level is the highest TSI freight has been in 2013, and is the second highest all-time level exceeded only by December 2011 and equal to the January 2005 level before the recession. After dipping to 94.8 in April 2009, the index rose 20.6 percent in the succeeding 49 months. For additional historical data, go to TSI data.

Index highs and lows: Freight shipments in May 2013 (114.3) were 20.6 percent higher than the recent low in April 2009 during the recession (94.8). The May 2013 level is down 0.8 percent from the historic peak reached in December 2011 (115.2).

Year to date: Freight shipments measured by the index were up 1.7 percent in May compared to the end of 2012 (Table 3)

Long-term trend: Freight shipments are up 2.6 percent in the five years from the recession level of May 2008 and are up 11.1 percent in the 10 years from in the 10 years from May 2003 (Table 5). 

Same month of previous year: May 2013 freight shipments were up 2.7 percent from May 2012 (Tables 4, 5).

The TSI has three seasonally adjusted indexes that measures changes from the monthly average of the base year of 2000. The three indexes are freight shipments, passenger travel and a combined measure that merges the freight and passenger indexes. TSI includes data from 2000 to the present. Release of the June 2013 index is scheduled for August 2013.

For a webinar on the TSI, see Past Webinars.  For a video explanation of the TSI, see Overview of the Transportation Services Index.  A BTS report explaining the TSI, Transportation Services Index and the Economy, is available for download.

Passenger Index: The TSI for passengers was unchanged in May from its April level (Table 6).  The Passenger TSI May 2013 level of 116.2 was less than 0.1 percent above the May 2012 level (Table 7). The index is down 1.2 percent in five years and up 24.5 percent in 10 years (Table 5).  The passenger TSI measures the month-to-month changes in travel that involves the services of the for-hire passenger transportation sector. The seasonally adjusted index consists of data from air, local transit and intercity rail.

Combined Index: The combined freight and passenger TSI rose 0.9 percent in May from its April level (Table 8). The combined TSI May 2013 level of 114.8 was 1.9 percent above the May 2012 level (Table 9). The combined index is up 1.4 percent in five years and up 14.6 percent in 10 years (Table 5). The combined TSI merges the freight and passenger indexes into a single index.

Revisions: Monthly data has changed from previous releases due to the use of concurrent seasonal analysis, which results in seasonal analysis factors changing as each months data are added.  

Updated: Monday, July 29, 2013
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