BTS reports increase in freight shipments

The amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry rose 1.2 percent in November from October, rebounding from a one-month decline to reach its highest all-time level, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS) Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI). The November 2013 index level (116.5) was 22.8 percent above the April 2009 low during the most recent recession.

BTS, a part of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration, reported that the level of freight shipments in November measured by the Freight TSI (116.5) reached an all-time high, exceeding the previous high of 115.4 in September 2013. BTS’ TSI records begin in 2000.

The October index was revised to 115.1 from 114.3 in last month’s release. Monthly numbers for May through September were also revised up from last month’s release.

Beginning with the April release, BTS improved procedures and refined the TSI methodology. As a result there have been minor changes in monthly numbers released previously. Documentation will be made available in the near future.

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 1.2 percent increase in November freight transportation after a small dip in October was a return to the growth that has characterized the second half of 2013. The November rise was a result of increases in all modes except pipeline. Growth in tonnage intensive industries such as heavy construction and oil and gas fracking produced an increase in truck tonnage. Both trucking and rail benefitted from growing auto production.


The Freight TSI remained above its 2012 range for the 11th month in a row. Beginning with January, every month in 2013 has exceeded the high point of 2012, 112.2 reached in December. The November 2013 level was the highest all-time level for the index. After dipping to 94.9 in April 2009, the index rose 22.8 percent in the succeeding 55 months.

Index highs and lows

Freight shipments in November 2013 (116.5) were 22.8 percent higher than the recent low in April 2009 during the recession (94.9). The November 2013 level is an all-time high (116.5).

Year to date

Freight shipments measured by the index were up 3.8 percent in November compared to the end of 2012.

Long-term trend

Freight shipments are up 11.3 percent in the five years from the recession level of November 2008 and are up 9.6 percent in the 10 years from November 2003.

Same month of previous year

November 2013 freight shipments were up 5.2 percent from November 2012.

The TSI has three seasonally adjusted indexes that measures changes from the monthly average of the base year of 2000. The three indexes are freight shipments, passenger travel and a combined measure that merges the freight and passenger indexes. TSI includes data from 2000 to the present. Release of the December index is scheduled for February 12.

Passenger Index

The TSI for passengers rose 0.01 percent in November from its October level. The Passenger TSI November 2013 level of 117.7 was 2.4 percent above the November 2012 level. The index is up 6.1 percent in five years and up 18.9 percent in 10 years. The passenger TSI measures the month-to-month changes in travel that involves the services of the for-hire passenger transportation sector. The seasonally adjusted index consists of data from air, local transit and intercity rail.

The monthly number for the Passenger TSI was revised down slightly. The Passenger TSI index otherwise remained unchanged during May through October 2013 from the last release.

Combined Index

The combined freight and passenger TSI rose 0.9 percent in November from its October level. The combined TSI November 2013 level of 116.9 was 4.4 percent above the November 2012 level. The combined index is up 9.7 percent in five years and up 12.0 percent in 10 years. The combined TSI merges the freight and passenger indexes into a single index.


JJ Keller