Five Years: Freight Transportation Services Index, August 2009- August 2014. Credit: U.S. DOT

Five Years: Freight Transportation Services Index, August 2009- August 2014. Credit: U.S. DOT

A measure of U.S. freight movements hit a record high in August, according to new government figures.

The U.S. Transportation Department’s Freight Transportation Services Index, which is based on the amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry, rose 0.6% in August from July, rising for the second consecutive month.

The August 2014 index level of 120.9 is 27.8% above the April 2009 low during the most recent recession

Year-to-date the index is 1.5% higher compared to the level from the first eight months of last year and is 3.8% higher than it was in August 2013.

The July index was revised upward to 120.1 from 119.6 in last month’s release. Monthly numbers for February through June were also revised up slightly.

The increase in freight in August was driven by continued gains in trucking and water, and by pipelines, which rebounded from a July decline, according to the department, while rail and air gave back some July gains. The rise in freight took place despite a decline in industrial production, but accompanied growth in personal income and in inventories of manufactured goods. Overall employment grew, as did transportation employment, although more slowly, the department said.

August was the third month in which the Freight TSI exceeded the levels that had been attained prior to the weather-related downturn in the early part of the year to reach its highest level ever. The increase in the index continues the return to growth after the decline in June. After dipping to 94.6 in April 2009, the index rose by 27.8% in the succeeding 64 months.

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.