Transportation Services Index

You are here

December 2018 Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI)

Release Number: 
BTS 02-19
Date: Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI), which is based on the amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry, fell 3.1 percent in December from November, declining after four consecutive monthly increases, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS). For the full year 2018, the index rose 1.4 percent, the third consecutive annual rise but down from the 6.8 percent increase in 2017 (Tables 1, 2, and 2A).

(Seasonally Adjusted, Monthly Average of 2000 = 100)
MonthFreight TSI
Dec-13117.7
Jan-14115.9
Feb-14117.9
Mar-14119.9
Apr-14120.6
May-14120.9
Jun-14119.8
Jul-14120.4
Aug-14120.9
Sep-14121.8
Oct-14122.5
Nov-14123.2
Dec-14123.1
Jan-15122.8
Feb-15121.6
Mar-15122.5
Apr-15121.5
May-15121.7
Jun-15121.4
Jul-15122.3
Aug-15123.0
Sep-15123.0
Oct-15122.5
Nov-15120.9
Dec-15120.3
Jan-16121.8
Feb-16121.5
Mar-16120.2
Apr-16122.3
May-16121.6
Jun-16122.3
Jul-16125.1
Aug-16122.8
Sep-16121.7
Oct-16122.6
Nov-16123.3
Dec-16124.0
Jan-17123.6
Feb-17124.3
Mar-17124.4
Apr-17124.7
May-17124.8
Jun-17125.3
Jul-17127.6
Aug-17128.2
Sep-17127.6
Oct-17129.3
Nov-17131.4
Dec-17132.4
Jan-18130.0
Feb-18132.7
Mar-18134.6
Apr-18134.5
May-18135.6
Jun-18136.4
Jul-18135.2
Aug-18135.3
Sep-18136.4
Oct-18138.0
Nov-18138.5
Dec-18134.2
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

The level of for-hire freight shipments in December measured by the Freight TSI (134.2) was 3.1 percent below the all-time high level of 138.5 in November 2018 (Table 2A). BTS’ TSI records begin in 2000. See historical TSI data.

The November index was revised to 138.5 from 140.0 in last month’s release but remains an all-time high. Monthly numbers for May, July, August, and October August were revised down slightly. June and September 2018 were revised up slightly.

The Freight TSI measures the month-to-month changes in for-hire 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. The TSI is seasonally-adjusted to remove regular seasonal change from month-to-month comparisons.

Analysis: The Freight TSI December decrease of 3.1 percent was driven by declines in trucking and pipeline, while rail carload, air freight, water and rail intermodal increased. The TSI decrease took place against a background of mixed results for other indicators. The Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production index rose by 0.3 percent in December, with increases in mining and manufacturing but a decline in utilities. More than one-third of the 2016 tonnage moved by rail was from mining, not including oil and gas, according to the Freight Analysis Framework (v.4.4.1). The Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing index declined 5.2 points to 54.1, indicating continued but decelerating growth.

Trend: The 3.1 percent decline in December was the first decrease since July 2018, and the largest monthly decrease since March 2009. The Freight TSI had four monthly declines in 2018, compared to eight monthly increases leaving it 1.4 percent above its level of 12 months earlier. Freight TSI is now at its lowest level since February 2018 but still higher than any month prior to 2018.

The decline of 1.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018 was the first quarterly decline in the Freight TSI since the since the third quarter of 2016, and the largest quarterly decline since the fourth quarter of 2015. The December index was 41.6 percent above the April 2009 low during the most recent recession. For additional historical data, go to TSI data.

Index highs and lows: For-hire freight shipments in December 2018 (134.2) were 41.6 percent higher than the low in April 2009 during the recession (94.8). The December 2018 level was 3.1 percent below the historic peak reached in November 2018 (138.5).

Year-to-date: For-hire freight shipments measured by the index were up 1.4 percent in December compared to the end of 2017 (Table 3).

Long-term trend: For-hire freight shipments are up 14.0 percent in the five years from December 2013 and are up 33.7 percent in the 10 years from December 2008 (Table 5). 

Same month of previous year: December 2018 for-hire freight shipments were up 1.4 percent from December 2017 (Tables 4, 5).

4th quarter changes: The freight TSI fell 1.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018. It was the first quarterly decline following no change in the third quarter and seven consecutive increases (Table 10).  

The TSI has three seasonally-adjusted indexes that measure 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. See Seasonally-Adjusted Transportation Data for numbers for individual modes. TSI includes data from 2000 to the present. Release of the January index is scheduled for March 13.

Passenger Index: The TSI for passengers rose 0.2 percent in December from its November level (Table 6). The Passenger TSI December 2018 level of 130.7 was 2.4 percent above the December 2017 level (Table 7). The index is up 11.0 percent in five years and up 18.4 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 fell 2.0 percent in December from its November level (Table 8). The combined TSI December 2018 level of 133.1 was 1.8 percent above the December 2017 level (Table 9). The combined index is up 13.0 percent in five years and up 28.7 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 month’s data are added.    

BTS research has shown a clear relationship between economic cycles and the Freight and Passenger Transportation Services Indexes. See a study of this relationship using smoothed and detrended TSI data. Researchers who wish to compare TSI over time with other economic indicators, can use the FRED database, which includes freight, passenger and combined TSI, and which makes it possible to easily graph TSI alongside the other series in that database. See TSI data on FRED.   

A BTS report explaining the TSI, Transportation Services Index and the Economy, is available for download.

Percent Change from Previous Month, (Seasonally Adjusted, Monthly Average of 2000 = 100)
FreightPassengerCombined
IndexPct. Change IndexPct. Change IndexPct. Change
June136.40.6131.50.8134.80.7
July135.2-0.9131.2-0.2133.9-0.7
August135.30.1130.8-0.3133.8-0.1
September136.40.8127.7-2.4133.5-0.2
October138.01.2130.72.3135.61.6
November138.50.4130.4-0.2135.80.1
December134.2-3.1130.70.2133.1-2.0
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

YearMonthPeakMonthBottom
2009December101.6April94.8
2014November123.2July115.9
2015August123.0December120.3
2016July125.1March120.2
2017December132.4January123.6
2018(thru December)November138.5January130.0
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from previous month
2015201620172018
% Change% Change% Change% Change
January-0.21.2-0.3-1.8
February-1.0-0.20.62.1
March0.7-1.10.11.4
April-0.81.70.2-0.1
May0.2-0.60.10.8
June-0.20.60.40.6
July0.72.31.8-0.9
August0.6-1.80.50.1
September0.0-0.9-0.50.8
October-0.40.71.31.2
November-1.30.61.60.4
December-0.50.60.8-3.1
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

2015201620172018
January122.8121.8123.6130.0
February121.6121.5124.3132.7
March122.5120.2124.4134.6
April121.5122.3124.7134.5
May121.7121.6124.8135.6
June121.4122.3125.3136.4
July122.3125.1127.6135.2
August123.0122.8128.2135.3
September123.0121.7127.6136.4
October122.5122.6129.3138.0
November120.9123.3131.4138.5
December120.3124.0132.4134.2
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change to December from December of the previous year
YearFreightPassengerCombined
20091.20.00.8
20107.02.45.7
20115.82.34.7
2012-2.30.2-1.6
20134.81.63.9
20144.62.53.9
2015-2.33.1-0.5
20163.10.82.3
20176.81.75.0
20181.42.41.8
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the December Freight TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
December Freight TSIPercent change from same month previous year
2009101.61.2
2010108.77.0
2011115.05.8
2012112.3-2.3
2013117.74.8
2014123.14.6
2015120.3-2.3
2016124.03.1
2017132.46.8
2018134.21.4
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent Change to 2018 (December to December)
Since December . . .Duration in yearsFreight TSI Percent change to December 2018Passenger TSI Percent change to December 2018Combined TSI Percent change to December 2018
201711.42.41.8
201628.24.16.8
2015311.65.09.3
201449.08.38.7
2013514.011.013.0
2012619.512.817.4
2011716.713.015.4
2010823.515.620.9
2009932.118.427.7
20081033.718.428.7
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from previous month
2015201620172018
% Change% Change% Change% Change
January-0.4-0.50.5-0.6
February-0.61.5-1.01.4
March1.5-2.40.60.1
April0.11.11.00.7
May0.20.2-0.30.7
June0.00.60.30.8
July2.2-0.40.3-0.2
August-1.4-1.0-0.3-0.3
September0.31.9-2.3-2.4
October1.1-1.52.92.3
November-0.81.00.7-0.2
December0.80.5-0.70.2
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the December Passenger TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
December Passenger TSIPercent change from same month previous year
2009110.40.0
2010113.12.4
2011115.72.3
2012115.90.2
2013117.81.6
2014120.72.5
2015124.53.1
2016125.50.8
2017127.61.7
2018130.72.4
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from previous month
2015201620172018
% Change% Change% Change% Change
January-0.30.7-0.1-1.4
February-0.80.20.11.9
March1.0-1.50.21.0
April-0.51.60.50.2
May0.2-0.3-0.10.8
June-0.20.60.40.7
July1.21.41.3-0.7
August-0.1-1.50.3-0.1
September0.1-0.1-1.1-0.2
October0.10.01.81.6
November-1.10.71.30.1
December0.00.60.2-2.0
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change in the December Combined TSI, (Monthly average of 2000 = 100)
December Combined TSIPercent change from same month previous year
2009104.20.8
2010110.15.7
2011115.34.7
2012113.4-1.6
2013117.83.9
2014122.43.9
2015121.8-0.5
2016124.62.3
2017130.85.0
2018133.11.8
Notes: 

Percent changes based on numbers prior to rounding.

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from the last month of the previous quarter
Year1st Quarter (Jan-Mar) % Growth2nd Quarter (Apr-Jun) % Growth3rd Quarter (Jul-Sep) % Growth4th Quarter (Oct-Dec) % Growth
2009-4.60.33.62.0
20103.80.90.61.5
20112.0-0.51.03.2
2012-2.91.6-1.40.4
20133.10.60.01.0
20141.9-0.11.71.1
2015-0.5-0.91.3-2.2
2016-0.11.7-0.51.9
20170.30.71.83.8
20181.71.30.0-1.6
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from the last month of the previous quarter
Year1st Quarter (Jan-Mar) % Growth2nd Quarter (Apr-Jun) % Growth3rd Quarter (Jul-Sep) % Growth4th Quarter (Oct-Dec) % Growth
2009-1.70.00.90.8
20100.31.01.3-0.1
20110.40.60.80.5
20120.3-0.70.40.2
20130.31.2-0.30.4
20141.7-0.50.70.6
20150.50.31.21.1
2016-1.42.00.4-0.1
20170.11.0-2.32.9
20180.92.2-2.92.3
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Percent change from the last month of the previous quarter
Year1st Quarter (Jan-Mar) % Growth2nd Quarter (Apr-Jun) % Growth3rd Quarter (Jul-Sep) % Growth4th Quarter (Oct-Dec) % Growth
2009-3.70.22.81.6
20102.81.00.71.0
20111.5-0.20.92.5
2012-2.01.0-0.90.3
20132.30.8-0.10.9
20141.8-0.21.30.9
2015-0.2-0.51.2-1.1
2016-0.61.8-0.21.3
20170.20.80.53.4
20181.51.6-1.0-0.3
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Brief Explanation of the TSI

The Transportation Services Index (TSI) is a measure of the month-to-month changes in the output of services provided by the for-hire transportation industries.  The freight index measure changes in freight shipments while the passenger index measures changes in passenger travel.

The TSI tells us how the output of transportation services has increased or decreased from month to month. The index can be examined together with other economic indicators to produce a better understanding of the current and future course of the economy.   The movement of the index over time can be compared with other economic measures to understand the relationship of changes in transportation output to changes in Gross Domestic Product (GDP).           

The freight transportation index consists of:

For-hire trucking,
Railroad freight services (including rail based intermodal shipments such as containers on flat cars),
Inland waterways transportation,Pipeline transportation (including principally petroleum and petroleum products and natural gas), and
Air freight.
 

The index does not include international or coastal waterborne movements, private trucking, courier services, or the US Postal Service.

The passenger transportation index consists of:

Local transit,
Intercity passenger rail, and
Passenger air transportation.

The index does not include intercity bus, sightseeing services, ferry services, taxi service, private automobile usage, or bicycling and other non-motorized transportation.

The TSI includes only domestic "for-hire" freight and passenger transportation. For-hire transportation consists of freight or passenger transport services provided by a firm to external customers for a fee. The TSI does not include taxi services, paid ride services in personal motor vehicles (e.g., Uber, Lyft, etc.), intercity bus services, in-house transportation (vehicles owned and operated by private firms for their own use), or noncommercial passenger travel (e.g., trips in the household car).

Updated: Monday, February 25, 2019