October 13, 2012
The amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry fell 0.6% in August from July, declining after a one-month rise. This information is according to the U.S. Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics' Freight Transportation Services Index. The August 2012 index level (109.0) was 15.6% above the April 2009 low during the recession. BTS, a part of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration, reported that the level of freight shipments in August measured by the Freight TSI (109.0) was at the lowest level since November 2011 (108.9) and was 4.4% below the all-time high level of 114.0 in December 2011. BTS' TSI records began in 1990. 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 airfreight.Analysis The Freight TSI in August 2012 continued a pattern of little change since January. This appears to reflect the rate of growth in the general economy. Gross Domestic Product growth slowed to a revised 1.7% in the second quarter and a revised 2% in first quarter of 2012 from 3% in fourth quarter of 2011, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Waterborne freight, which had declined significantly in June, has remained stable at the lower level since then, apparently due to the impact of continued low water conditions on the Mississippi River system.TrendSince peaking in December 2011 (114.0) at the highest level in the 22-year history of the Freight TSI series, the index has remained in a narrow band during the eight months of 2012. It reached a high of 110.6 in February and a low of 109.0 in August. After dipping to 94.3 in April 2009 during the recession, freight shipments increased in 25 of the last 40 months, rising 15.6% during that period. Index highs and lowsFreight shipments in August 2012 (109.0) were 15.6% higher than the recent low in April 2009 during the recession (94.3). In April 2009, freight shipments were at their lowest level since June 1997 (92.3). The August 2012 level is down 4.4% from the historic freight shipment peak reached in December 2011 (114.0).