The United States Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reported this week that its Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI) saw a slight gain in November, with a 0.1% increase over October, the most recent month for which data is available.
According to BTS officials, the Freight TSI measures the month-to-month changes in freight shipments in ton-miles, which are then 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 airfreight.
November’s 0.1% increase to 137.4 represents the second consecutive month of growth, with the Freight TSI falling 0.8% on an annual basis. And BTS noted that it is 2% below the all-time high level of 140.2 set in August 2019.
BTS officials said that November’s increase was narrowly based with increases only in pipeline and rail carloads, with trucking, water, air freight, and rail intermodal declining. The TSI increase took place against a background of strong results for several other indicators and sustained weakness in one. The Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production Index increased in November, reflecting increases in manufacturing and utilities and a small decrease in mining. Personal income increased by 0.5%, while housing starts increased by 3.2%. The Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing index decreased 0.2 points to 48.1, indicating contraction in the manufacturing sector for the fourth consecutive month.
November’s Freight TSI reading topped all but two months prior to 2019—October 2018 and November 2018, as well as five earlier months in 2019. And it headed up 16.8% compared to the recent low of 120.0 from March 2016 to 140.2 in August 2019 (at 140.2), with a 2.0% decline since then. What’s more, BTS said that the November Freight TSI reading came in at 44.9% higher than April 2009’s 94.8, which was at the time of the most recent recession.
BTS also noted that for-hire freight shipments are up 11.7% over the five-year period from November 2014 to November 2019 and are up 35.8% from November 2009 to November 2019.
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