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BTS freight index drops 0.6 percent in August from July

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 Trucker News Services


WASHINGTON — The amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry fell 0.6 percent in August from July, declining after a one-month rise, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS) Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI) released Thursday.

The August 2012 index level (109.0) was 15.6 percent above the April 2009 low during the recession, the BTS said.

The BTS, which is part of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration, reported that the level of freight shipments in was at the lowest level since November 2011 (108.9) and was 4.4 percent below the all-time high level of 114.0 in December 2011. BTS’ TSI records began in 1990.

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.

The BTS said the August Freight TSI continued a pattern of little change since January. “This appears to reflect the rate of growth in the general economy,” a BTS official said. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth slowed to a revised 1.7 percent in the second quarter and a revised 2.0 percent in first quarter of 2012 from 3.0 percent in fourth quarter of 2011, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).





Waterborne freight, which had declined significantly in June, has remained stable at the lower level since then, apparently due to the impact of continued low water conditions on the Mississippi River system.

Since peaking in December 2011 at the highest level in the 22-year history of the Freight TSI series, the index has remained in a narrow band during the eight months of 2012. It reached a high of 110.6 in February and a low of 109.0 in August. After dipping to 94.3 in April 2009 during the recession, freight shipments increased in 25 of the last 40 months, rising 15.6 percent during that period.

As for a long-term trend, freight shipments are up 1.0 percent in the five years from the pre-recession level of August 2007 and up 6.4 percent in the 10 years from August 2002 despite declines in recent years.

The August 2012 figure rose 0.9 percent from August 2011 and 10.6 percent from August 2009, which was in the trough of the recession, but remained below the level in August 2005 (111.4) prior to the recession.

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 historical data from 1990 to the present. Release of the September index is scheduled for Nov. 15.

The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at editor@thetrucker.com.

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