The amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry increased 1.9 percent in March from February to reach the highest level since July 2008, according to the DOT's Bureau of Transportation Statistics' Freight Transportation Services Index.
. The March increase followed a decline in February.

BTS, a part of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration, reported that shipments measured by the Freight TSI rose 15.1 percent over the last 23 months, starting in May 2009, after declining 15.7 percent in the previous 16 months beginning in January 2008.

The Freight TSI measures the month-to-month changes in freight shipments in ton-miles, which are then 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.

Freight shipments have increased in 17 of the last 23 months. In March 2011, freight shipments reached their highest level since July 2008 when the amount of freight shipped was early in its decline.

Freight shipments reached a 33-month high in March despite a slight slowdown in the rate of growth in the beginning of 2011 compared to the end of 2010. For the first three months of 2011, freight shipments measured by the index were up 1.3 percent following a 2.1 percent increase during the final three months of 2010.

Freight shipments in March (108.6 on the index) rose 15.1 percent, from the recent low in April 2009 (94.3). In April 2009, freight shipments were at their lowest level since July 1997. The March level is down 4.2 percent from the historic freight shipment peak reached in January 2005 (113.3).

Long-term, freight shipments are down 2.1 percent in the five years from March 2006. Shipments are up 9.4 percent in the 10 years from March 2001 despite recent declines.

Although freight shipments rose 4.8 percent from March 2010 to March 2011, they remain below the recent high for the month of March (111.7) reached in 2005.

The Freight TSI rose 1.3 percent in the first quarter, the seventh consecutive quarterly increase since the second quarter of 2009.

The TSI is a seasonally adjusted index that measures changes from the monthly average of the base year of 2000. It includes historic data from 1990 to the present.