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Trucking Drives Another Record-Setting Month in For-Hire Freight Movements

October 13, 2017

By Evan Lockridge

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Freight Transportation Services Index, August 2012 - August 2017. Graphic: U.S. DOT
Freight Transportation Services Index, August 2012 - August 2017. Graphic: U.S. DOT

The amount of freight moved by U.S. for-hire transportation providers hit an all-time high again in August, according to Transportation Department figures, after breaking the previous record the month before.

The Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI) increased 1.5% in August to a reading of 130.7, which is also a 6.7% gain from August 2016, the largest year-over-year gain in nearly seven years.

The Freight TSI’s new all-time high in August is also 4.6% above the level of July 2016, the highest level prior to 2017. August was the second all-time high in a row, and the third in four months.

The freight index in August exceeded the level of 130 for the first time, showing a 30% rise over the baseline in the year 2000. The index reached 110, a 10% increase over the baseline, in March 2004, and it reached 120, a 20% gain over the baseline, in April 2014.

The July index was revised upward to 128.8 from an earlier estimate while numbers for April and May were revised up slightly and June was revised down a bit.

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 consists of data from for-hire trucking, rail, inland waterways, pipelines and air freight.

The August increase in the Freight TSI was driven by a large gain in trucking and smaller gains in air freight and rail intermodal, according to the department. Water and pipeline freight decreased while rail carloads were stable.

The increase took place against a background of growth in several other economic indicators in August. Employment, personal income and housing starts all increased. The Institute for Supply Management’s Purchasing Managers’ Index showed positive and accelerating growth in the nation’s manufacturing sector.

However, the Federal Reserve Board’s Industrial Production index, which measures the output from the nation’s factories, mines and utilities, declined by 0.9%, with decreases in all sectors.

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