After a one-month increase, the amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry fell 0.8% in March from February, reports the Bureau of Transportation Statistics' Freight Transportation Services Index. The March level was 16% above the April 2009 low during the recession.

BTS, a part of the DOT's Research and Innovative Technology Administration, reported that the level of freight shipments measured by the Freight TSI, 109.4, declined from December 2011's mark of 113.7, which was the all-time high since 1990 when BTS' TSI records began.

The Freight TSI measures the month-to-month changes in freight shipments by mode of transportation 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 in March 2012 (109.4) were at the fourth highest level since the early recession month of July 2008 despite the 3.8% decline from December 2011 (113.7 on the index), which was the highest level in the 22-year history of the series. After dipping to a recent low in April 2009 (94.3) during the recession, freight shipments increased in 23 of the last 35 months.

In April 2009, freight shipments were at their lowest level since June 1997 (92.3). The March 2012 level is down 3.8% from the historic freight shipment peak reached in December 2011 (113.7).

Freight shipments are down 1.2% in the five years from pre-recession of March 2007 and up 10.9% in the 10 years from March 2002, despite declines in recent years.