The Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI) — based on the amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry — fell 1.8 percent in August from July after rising for four consecutive months.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS) said August’s index level (122.3) was 29 percent above the April 2009 low during the most recent recession.
The level of freight shipments in August measured by the Freight TSI (122.3) was 1.8 percent below the all-time high level of 124.5 in July 2016. The July index was revised to 124.5 from 124.6 in last month’s release but still remains an all-time high. Monthly numbers for January through May were revised down slightly.
The Freight TSI measures the month-to-month changes in 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 August Freight TSI decrease of 1.8 percent from July was due to declines in pipelines, rail carloads — and particularly trucking — while all other modes grew or were stable. The August decrease was driven by declines in the mining (including oil and gas well drilling and servicing) and manufacturing sectors of the economy.
The Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production index went down by 0.4 percent in August. Housing starts were 0.4 percent below the July level, Personal Income was 0.2 percent above the July level, and employment grew by 151,000 jobs. Both Personal Income and employment grew more slowly than in previous months.
The 1.8 percent Freight TSI decline in August from July was the largest monthly decrease since January 2014. The decrease, following an increase of 1.6 percent in July, virtually brought the index back to the June level. In the two-month period, the index was down 0.2 percent.
Since the beginning of 2015, the index has been extremely stable as it fluctuated above and below 122. It has deviated only twice by more than 1 percent from the 122 level twice — in March 2016 when it fell 2.0 percent below 122 to a two-year low and in July 2016 when it rose 2.0 percent above 122 to reach an all-time high. The index has risen 29 percent since the low of 94.8 in April 2009.