The Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI) — based on the amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry — fell 0.9 percent in March from February, declining for a second consecutive month.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS), the March 2016 index level (120.0) was 26.7 percent above the April 2009 low during the most recent recession.
The level of freight shipments in March measured by the Freight TSI (120.0) was 2.8 percent below the all-time high level of 123.5 in November 2014. The bureau’s TSI records begin in 2000.
The February index was revised down to 121.1 from 122.2 in last month’s release, and the January index was revised down to 122.9 from 123.1.
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 March Freight TSI decrease of 0.9 percent from February was broad in terms of mode – all freight modes decreased except for air freight, which rebounded after a significant decrease in February. The decrease was driven by continued weakness in the mining (including oil and gas well drilling and servicing), utility and manufacturing sectors of the economy.
The Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production index declined 0.6 percent in March, its second consecutive monthly decline. Housing starts were 8.8 percent below the February level.
The first-quarter TSI decline of 1.2 percent from the fourth quarter matched trends in the larger economy. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth decreased to the relatively slow annual rate of 0.5 percent. The Industrial Production index also declined during the first quarter.