July’s Freight Transportation Services Index shows 2.5% improvement from April low, still lags 8.8% behind high point in August 2019

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A report released by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics showed modest gains in intermodal freight from June 2020 to July 2020.

WASHINGTON — The Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI), which is based on the amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry, rose 0.3% in July from June, rising for the third consecutive month after three months of decreases, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS).

TSI Infographic
(Courtesy of Bureau of Transportation Statistics)

From July 2019 to July 2020, the index dropped 7.8% compared to an increase of 2.9% from July 2018 to July 2019 and a jump of 5.8% from July 2017 to July 2018. The level of for-hire freight shipments in July measured by the Freight TSI (128.9) was 2.5% above the recent April low (125.7) but still 8.8% below the all-time high level of 141.3 in August 2019.

The Freight TSI rose 0.3% in July from June due to growth in rail intermodal, rail carload, water and pipeline, despite declines in air freight and trucking. The July increase took place against the background of growth in several other indicators, according to BTS analysts.

In addition, BTS noted that the Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing (ISM) Index was up by 1.6 points to 54.1, indicating accelerating growth in manufacturing. The Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production (IP) Index grew 3% in June, reflecting an increase of 3.4% in manufacturing, 3.3% in utilities and 0.8% in mining. Housing starts increased by 22.6%. Personal income was up 0.4%, in part reflecting a decrease in federal economic recovery payments as noted by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

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 Freight TSI consists of 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 U.S. Postal Service.

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