Supply Chain News / Economic Development

Freight Shipments Fell 0.1% in June from May

August 10, 2012

The amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry fell 0.1 percent in June from May, following no change in the index from April to May, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS) Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI), released Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012. The June 2012 index level (109.5) was 16.1 percent above the April 2009 low during the recession (Tables 1, 2A).

BTS, a part of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration, reported that the level of freight shipments in June measured by the Freight TSI, 109.5, was 3.9 percent below the all-time high level of 114.0 in December 2011 (Table 2A). BTS’ TSI records began in 1990. See historical TSI data.

The Freight TSI measures the month-to-month changes in freight shipments by mode of transportation 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 air freight.

Analysis

The Freight TSI remained stable in the second quarter of 2012, continuing a pattern of little change since January. This appears to reflect the rate of growth in the general economy. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth slowed to 1.5 percent in the second quarter and a revised 2.0 percent in first quarter of 2012, from 3.0 percent in fourth quarter of 2011, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). Rail and truck freight grew in June, but were offset by decline in shipments using other modes, notably waterborne freight, which may be due to the impact of low water conditions on the Mississippi River system.

Trend

Freight shipments in June 2012 (109.5) were at the seventh highest monthly level since the early recession month of July 2008 despite the 3.9 percent decline from its peak in December 2011 (114.0), which was the highest level in the 22-year history of the Freight TSI series. After dipping to a recent low in April 2009 (94.3) during the recession, freight shipments increased in 24 of the last 38 months, rising 16.1 percent during that period (Tables 2, 2A). For additional historical data, go to http://www.bts.gov/xml/tsi/src/index.xml.

Index highs and lows

Freight shipments in June 2012 (109.5) were 16.1 percent higher than the recent low in April 2009 during the recession (94.3). In April 2009, freight shipments were at their lowest level since June 1997 (92.3). The June 2012 level is down 3.9 percent from the historic freight shipment peak reached in December 2011 (114.0).

Long-term trend

Freight shipments are up 1.1 percent in the five years from the pre-recession level of June 2007 and up 7.8 percent in the 10 years from June 2002 despite declines in recent years (Table 5). 

Same month of previous year

June 2012 freight shipments rose 1.6 percent from June 2011 and 14.6 percent from June 2009, during the recession, but remain below the level in June 2006 (111.9) prior to the recession (Tables 4, 5).

The TSI is a seasonally adjusted index that measures changes from the monthly average of the base year of 2000. It includes historical data from 1990 to the present. Release of the July index is scheduled for Sept. 12.

2nd Quarter Changes

The Freight TSI fell 0.2 percent in the second quarter for the second consecutive quarterly decline. The index rose in nine of the last 12 quarters (Table 10).

Passenger Index

The TSI for passengers rose 0.5 percent in June from its May level (Table 6).  The Passenger TSI June 2012 level of 117.6 was 2.3 percent above the June 2011 level and was the all-time high for June indexes since 1990 when BTS’ TSI records began (Table 7). The index is up 0.5 percent in five years and is up 24.1 percent in 10 years (Table 5).  The passenger TSI measures the month-to-month changes in travel conducted in the for-hire passenger transportation sector. The seasonally adjusted index consists of data from air, local transit and intercity rail.

Combined Index

The combined freight and passenger TSI rose 0.1 percent in June from its May level (Table 8). The combined TSI May 2012 level of 111.7 was 1.8 percent above the June 2011 level (Table 9). The combined index is up 0.9 percent in five years and up 12.2 percent in 10 years despite recent declines (Table 5). The combined TSI merges the freight and passenger indexes into a single index.

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