Freight Transportation Services Index, March 2010 - March 2015. Graphic: U.S. DOT.

Freight Transportation Services Index, March 2010 - March 2015. Graphic: U.S. DOT.

A measure of the amount of freight moved by the for-hire transportation industry in the U.S. increased in March, reversing a one-month decline and posting its biggest gain since last July, according a report released Wednesday.

The U.S. Transportation Department’s Freight Transportation Services Index rose 1.7% in March from February to its second highest level on record. The March index level of 122.9 is just 0.4% below the all-time hit in November 2014.

March 2015 freight shipments were up 3.1% from March 2014.

The February index was revised upward to 120.9 from 120.4, while January index also was revised slightly up, with smaller upward revisions for the last three months of 2014.

The Freight TSI’s growth of 0.2% in the first quarter of 2015 was the smallest quarterly increase since the third quarter of 2012, other than a decline in the second quarter of 2014.

“Unusually severe winter weather in much of the United States resulted in slow growth in several sectors of the economy, including personal consumption expenditures and non-residential fixed investment, all of which potentially impact demand for transportation. In addition, the weather impacted transportation more directly,” said the U.S. DOT in a news release.

Also during the quarter, the U.S. gross domestic product grew 0.2% annual rate, a slowdown from 2.2% in the fourth quarter of 2014 and the slowest GDP growth since the first quarter of 2014.

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.