Freight Transportation Service Index up 1.3% in October, BTS says

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From October 2018 to October 2019, the Freight Transportation Services Index rose 0.5% compared to a rise of 6.8% from October 2017 to October 2018. (The Trucker file photo)

WASHINGTON — The Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI) that is based on the amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry, rose 1.3% in October from September, up after a one-month decline, according to the Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS).

From October 2018 to October 2019, the index rose 0.5% compared to a rise of 6.8% from October 2017 to October 2018.

The level of for-hire freight shipments in October at 138.6 was exceeded by three previous months and was 1% below the all-time high level of 140.0 in August 2019. Records date back to 2000.

The September index was revised to 136.8 from 136.6 in last month’s release.  Monthly numbers for June through August 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.

The October TSI was broad based with increases in trucking, water, pipeline and air freight. Both rail carloads and rail intermodal declined.

The TSI increase took place against a background of mixed results for other indicators. The Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production Index declined in October, reflecting decreases in all major industry groups. Personal income increased by less than 0.1%, while housing starts increased by 3.8%. The Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing index increased 0.5 points to 48.3, indicating contraction in the manufacturing sector but not as much contraction as in September.

The Freight Index’s 1.3% increase in October was the largest one-month Freight TSI increase since September 2018. Following a decrease of 2.3% in October, TSI was 1.0% below its record high of 140.0 in August. However, it remained above any level it had reached before the high of November 2018 and in all but one month prior to January 2019. The Freight TSI rose 15.8% from 120 in March 2016 to a level of 139.0 in November 2018, but has been essentially stable (declining by 0.3 %) since then. The October 2019 index was 46.2% above the April 2009 low during the most recent recession.

For-hire freight shipments measured by the index were up 1.9% in October compared to the end of 2018.

As for the long-term trend, for-hire freight shipments are up 13.3% in the five years from October 2014 and are up 40.4% in the 10 years from October 2009.

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