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

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

A measure of for-hire freight movements in the U.S. increased in May following an April decline, according to a new U.S. Transportation Department report.

The Freight Transportation Services Index rose 0.8% to 122.7 on seasonally-adjusted basis, just 0.5% below the all-time high level of 123.3 in November 2014.

The April index was revised upward to 121.7 from 120.4 in last month’s release but remains below the March index. The indexes for December through March were also revised up slightly.

Compared to May 2014 freight shipments are up 1.7%.

The index measures the month-to-month changes in freight shipments by mode of transportation in tons and ton-miles, which are combined into one index and includes the output of for-hire freight from trucking, rail, inland waterways, pipelines and air freight.

According to the report, there was a large increase in trucking during May, reversing an overall April decline of 1.8%. Waterborne also rose along with a smaller increase in pipeline. These increases outweighed declines in air freight, rail carloads, and rail intermodal to produce the rise in the overall freight index in May.

This happened as personal income and employment increased in May while the U.S. Federal Reserve’s industrial production index and manufacturers’ shipments declined. Also, revised data indicates that the nation’s gross domestic product, a measure of the total output of goods and services, declined in the first quarter of 2015, when the growth of the freight TSI slowed.

Freight shipments are up 15.4% in the five years from the post-recession level of May 2010 and are up 9.2% in the 10 years from May 2005.