April ’24 TSI trending downward

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April ’24 TSI trending downward
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WASHINGTON — The Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI), which is based on the amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry, fell 1.1 percent in April from March, falling for the second consecutive month, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS). From April 2023 to April 2024 the index fell 1.3 percent.

The level of for-hire freight shipments in April measured by the Freight TSI (134.9) was 4.5 percent below the all-time high of 141.2 reached in August 2022. BTS’ TSI records began in 2000. The March index was revised to 136.4 from 136.7 in last month’s release.

BTS will release the passenger and combined indexes for April in July, due to the fact that air passenger travel continues to deviate from regular seasonal patterns, as it adjusts to the effects induced by the COVID-19 pandemic. The March passenger and combined indexes are available on the BTS website.

Air freight for April is also a statistical estimate. Since air freight makes up a smaller part of the freight index, the freight TSI is being released as scheduled with the air freight estimate included.

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 movement, which enables month-to-month comparisons.

According to an analysis of the trends, the Freight TSI decreased in April due to seasonally adjusted decreases in trucking, air freight, rail carload, rail intermodal, pipeline and water.

The April decrease came in the context of mixed results for several other indicators. The Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production (IP) Index was unchanged in April, reflecting increases of 2.8 percent in utilities, while mining declined by 0.6 percent and manufacturing was down 0.3 percent. Housing starts were up 5.7 percent and personal income increased by 0.3 percent.

The Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing (ISM) index was down 1.1 points to 49.2, a return to contraction in manufacturing after growth in the previous month. A reading above 50 indicates an expansion of U.S. manufacturing, while a reading below 50 indicates a contraction.

Although the April Passenger TSI is being withheld because of the previously cited difficulty of estimating airline passenger travel and other components, the March index is now being released. The index increased 1.6 percent from February to March. Seasonally adjusted transit, rail and air passengers all increased.

The Passenger TSI has now exceeded its level in March 2020 —the first month of the pandemic— for thirty-four months in a row but remains below its pre-pandemic level (February 2020) for the 49th consecutive month.

Trend analysis also shows that the April freight index decrease was the third in four months, leaving the index 2.4 percent below its level in December 2023. It followed a decrease in March, leaving the index 2.5 percent below its level in February 2024. The index increased 1.4 percent since August 2021. The April Freight TSI exceeds the pandemic low in April 2020 by 8.6 percent. The index increased month-over-month in 26 of the 48 months since that low.

For additional historical data, go to TSI data.

Index highs and lows: For-hire freight shipments in April 2024 (134.9) were 42.0 percent higher than the low in April 2009 during the recession (95.0). The April 2024 level was 4.5 percent below the historic peak (since 2000) reached in August 2022 (141.2).

Year to date: For-hire freight shipments measured by the index were down 2.4 percent in April compared to the end of 2023.

Long-term trend: For-hire freight shipments are down 2.2 percent in the five years from April 2019 and are up 11.9 percent in the 10 years from April 2014.

Same month of previous year: April 2024 for-hire freight shipments were down 1.3 percent from April 2023.

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 May 2024 index is scheduled for July 11, 2024.

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.

For charts and discussion on the relationship of the TSI to the economy, see Transportation as an Economic Indicator: Transportation Services Index.

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

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 measures changes in freight shipments while the passenger index measures changes in passenger travel.

The TSI shows 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 includes:

  • 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 includes:

  • Local transit.

  • Inter-city passenger rail.

  • Passenger air transportation.

The index does not include intercity bus, sightseeing services, ferry services, taxi services, 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).

Dana Guthrie

Dana Guthrie is an award-winning journalist who has been featured in multiple newspapers, books and magazines across the globe. She is currently based in the Atlanta, Georgia, area.

Avatar for Dana Guthrie
Dana Guthrie is an award-winning journalist who has been featured in multiple newspapers, books and magazines across the globe. She is currently based in the Atlanta, Georgia, area.
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