The Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI), which is based on the amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry, rose 0.3% in September from August, rising for the second consecutive month to its second highest all-time level, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS).
From September 2021 to September 2022 the index rose 4.8% (Tables 1, 2, and 2A).
The level of for-hire freight shipments in September measured by the Freight TSI (142.0) was 0.1% below the all-time high level of 142.1 in August 2019. BTS’ TSI records begin in 2000. See historical TSI data.
The August index was revised to 141.6 from 140.9 in last month's release.
BTS is withholding the scheduled release of the passenger and combined indexes for September. The passenger index for September is a statistical estimate of airline passenger travel and other components based on historical trends up to August 2022. The statistical estimate does not fully account for the rapidly changing impacts of the coronavirus on the historical trend. Waterborne and air freight for September are also statistical estimates. Since these two freight modes make up a smaller part of the freight index, the freight TSI is being released as scheduled with the air freight estimate included. The August passenger and combined indexes are available on the BTS website.
The Freight TSI measures the month-to-month changes in for-hire 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 TSI is seasonally-adjusted to remove regular seasonal movement, which enables month-to-month comparisons.
Analysis: The Freight TSI increased in September due to seasonally adjusted increases in trucking, rail carloads, water and air freight, while rail intermodal and pipeline decreased.
The September increase came in the context of mixed results for several other indicators. The Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production (IP) Index grew by 0.4% in September, reflecting increases of 0.4% in manufacturing and 0.6% in mining, while utilities declined by 0.3%. Housing starts were down 8.1% while personal income increased by 0.4%.
The Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing (ISM) index was down 1.9 points to 50.9, indicating slowing growth in manufacturing.
Although the September Passenger TSI is being withheld because of the previously cited difficulty of estimating airline passenger travel and other components, the August index is now being released. The index increased 1.6% from July to August. Seasonally adjusted air passenger and rail passenger increased, while transit declined.
The Passenger TSI has now exceeded its level in March 2020 —the first month of the pandemic— for fifteen months in a row but remains below its pre-pandemic level (February 2020) for the 30th consecutive month.
Trend: The September freight index increase was the second in a row for a total increase of 1.0% since July. It was the eleventh month-over-month increase in thirteen months, for a total increase of 5.5% since August 2021. The September Freight TSI is 13.4% above the pandemic low in April 2020; it has increased in 20 of the 29 months since that low. The index is now 0.1% below its previous record level of 142.1 set in August 2019, despite increasing in 20 of the 37 months since that earlier peak.
For additional historical data, go to TSI data.