Freight Transportation Services Index, April 2009 - April 2014. Credit: U.S. DOT

Freight Transportation Services Index, April 2009 - April 2014. Credit: U.S. DOT

The amount of freight carried by the U.S. for-hire transportation industry rose 0.4% in April from March, increasing for the third consecutive month, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Freight Transportation Services Index released Wednesday.

The April 2014 index level of 117.6 was 24.1% above the April 2009 low during the most recent recession.

The level of freight shipments in April measured by the seasonally adjusted Freight TSI, was at the second highest all-time level and 0.1% below the all-time high level of 117.8 in November 2013. TSI records begin in 2000.

The March index was revised upward to 117.1 from 116.7 in last month’s release. Smaller upward revisions were made for December and January.

The April increase in the freight index was led by trucking and rail intermodal, which grew rapidly for the third month in a row. Rail carload growth slowed after fast growth in March. The freight index has now risen for three consecutive months following a bottom in January that was largely weather-related and affected the entire economy, as measured by the gross domestic product decline in the January-to-March period.

Freight shipments are up 24.1% in the five years from the recession level of April 2009 and are up 6.4% in the 10 years from April 2004.

April 2014 freight shipments were up 4.8% from April 2013.

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. It measures the output of the for-hire freight transportation industry and consists of data from for-hire trucking, rail, inland waterways, pipelines and airfreight.