WASHINGTON — The Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI), which is based on the amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry, reached an all-time monthly high in December, 0.7 percent higher than the previous highest level reached in November, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS).
The December 2017 index level of 132.0 was 39.4 percent above the April 2009 low during the most recent recession.
It was the third straight month that the level had reached all all-time high.
The index was 6.1 percent higher in December 2017 than in December 2016, the largest annual gain since 2010. BTS’ TSI records begin in 2000.
BTS said the December increase was broad based, with increases in rail carloads, rail intermodal, trucking and water, while pipeline and air freight declined.
The TSI increase took place against a background of mostly positive results for other indicators. The Federal Reserve Board industrial production index rose by 0.9 percent in December, with significant increases in mining and utilities and a small increase in all manufacturing. Employment rose, personal income grew and the Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing index rose to 59.7, indicating accelerating growth.
Meanwhile, housing starts fell by 8.2 percent.
The 2.8 percent increase in the Freight TSI in the fourth quarter was consistent with the 2.6 percent growth in GDP during the same months. GDP growth had been 3.2 percent in the third quarter and 3.1 percent in the second quarter, when the Freight TSI also grew. GDP growth was slower in the first quarter of 2017, when the Freight TSI declined.
The Freight TSI’s new all-time high of 132.0 in December, 0.7 percent above the previous all-time high in November, was the seventh record-high level in 2017.
The December 2017 index was 5.7 percent higher than the pre-2017 high of 124.9 in July 2016 and 6.1 percent higher than the December 2016 level of 124.4.
The December increase was the third monthly increase in succession and the third consecutive record-high level. In nine out of 12 months in 2017, the Freight TSI exceeded the record high for all months prior to 2017 (124.9 in July 2016).
Over the last nine months of 2017, the index rose 6.8 percent with three quarterly increases.
The increase of 2.8 percent in the fourth quarter was the largest quarterly increase since 2.9 percent in the first quarter of 2013.
The three consecutive quarters of growth were the longest sequence of quarterly increases since the string of nine quarterly increases from the fourth quarter of 2012 through the fourth quarter of 2014.
The December index was 39.4 percent above the April 2009 low during the most recent recession. For additional historical data, go to TSI data.
For-hire freight shipments are up 17.6 percent in the five years from December 2012 and are up 19.2 percent in the 10 years from December 2007.
The November index was revised to 131.1 from 130.8 in last month’s release. Monthly numbers for January through October were revised down 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 seasons from month-to-month comparisons.