The Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI), which is based on the amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry, fell 0.4 percent in December from November, declining for the second consecutive month.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS), December’s index level (121.0) was 27.8 percent above the April 2009 low during the most recent recession.
The level of freight shipments in December measured by the Freight TSI (121.0) was 2.3 percent below the all-time high level of 123.8 in November 2014. BTS’ TSI records begin in 2000.
The December decrease was broad in terms of mode, with all freight modes decreasing except for trucking, which increased slightly. The decrease was driven by 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 0.4 percent in December while the ISM Manufacturing Index was below 50, indicating declining manufacturing activity. Housing starts were also below the November level.
The fourth-quarter TSI decline of 1.2 percent from the third quarter matched trends in the larger economy. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth decreased to the relatively slow quarterly rate of 0.2 percent (which is equivalent to an annual rate of 0.7 percent). The Industrial Production index also declined during the fourth quarter.
Following declines of 1.3 percent from October to November and 0.4 percent from November to December, the Freight TSI was 1.7 percent below its October level. The consecutive declines were the first time the index fell two months in a row since February 2015. After the November and December declines, the index was 2.3 percent below the November 2014 high point. The fourth quarter decline of 1.2 percent was the largest quarterly decline since the first quarter of 2012. The freight TSI declined in three of the four quarters of 2015. The index remains high compared to earlier years and has increased by 27.8 percent since its low of 94.7 in April 2009.