For-Hire Freight Up Two Months Straight, Near Record High

March 9, 2016

By Evan Lockridge

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Freight Transportation Services Index, January 2011 - January 2016. Graphic: U.S. DOT
Freight Transportation Services Index, January 2011 - January 2016. Graphic: U.S. DOT

Increases in intermodal and pipeline transportation helped drive the DOT's Freight Transportation Services Index to near a record high in January.

The amount of freight moved by U.S. for-hire transportation companies increased for the second straight month in January.

The DOT's Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI) rose 0.5% in January to a reading of 122.2, while the December 2015 index was revised upward to 121.6 from 121 in last month’s release.


This latest figure is just 1.3% below the all-time high level of 123.8 in November 2014, with TSI records going back to 2000. This is also the first time the index increased for two months in a row since November 2014.

The January Freight TSI hike was due to substantial growth in rail intermodal and pipeline and a smaller increase in the largest mode, trucking, according to the department. Air freight, water, and rail carloads all decreased.

“The TSI increase paralleled growth in the Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production index, which rose 0.9% in January reversing two months of declines, in personal income, up 0.5%, and in employment, which continued steady growth,” the department said. “The Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing Index was again below 50, indicating declining manufacturing activity and a continuing decrease in high inventories.”

The index remains high compared to earlier years, with an increase of 29% since the low of 94.7 in April 2009. Despite this, January freight shipments were down 0.5% from the same time in 2015.

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.

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