The Freight Transportation Services Index fell 1.5 percent in March from February’s all-time high, the Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reported Wednesday, May 10.
The March index level of 124.0 was 30.9 percent above the April 2009 low, according to BTS’s most recent recession tables.
For-hire shipments in March measured by the Freight TSI was 1.5 percent below the all-time high of 125.9 in February and the index was later revised from that number to 126.4.
The Freight TSI measures month-to-month changes in for-hire freight shipments by transportation mode in tons and ton-miles.
March’s decline was because of decreases in trucking, rail carloads, rail intermodal and water shipments, while air and pipeline modes increased.
During the same time period, employment and personal income grew while housing starts and manufacturing output declined, which could only have a negative impact on trucking.
And the 0.5 percent first-quarter decrease from the quarter prior was taking place while Gross Domestic Product or GDP growth slowed to an annual rate of 0.7 percent from 2.1 percent in fourth-quarter 2016.
The slowdown in GDP growth in the most recent two quarters was preceded by a third-quarter decline in Freight TSI and rapid GDP growth.
However, TSI Freight remains at “a historically high level,” notes BTS, since TSI for the four months from December 2016 to March of this year was above all previous months except for July 2016.
Indeed, for-hire freight shipments are up 11.0 percent in the five years from March 2012 and are up 11 percent in the 10 years from the pre-recession level of March 2007, BTS noted. And March shipments were up 3.2 percent from March of last year.