Freight Transportation Services Index, April 2011 - April 2016. Graphic: U.S. DOT

Freight Transportation Services Index, April 2011 - April 2016. Graphic: U.S. DOT

Following two straight months of declines, the amount of freight moved by the nation’s for-hire transportation industry turned around in April, according to new U.S. Department of Transportation figures. Freight rose 1.3% from the month before, posting the largest increase since March 2014.

The pickup in the Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI) to a level of 121.1 was due to growth in trucking and pipeline, while all other modes declined.

“The TSI increase paralleled the increases in housing starts and in industry production. Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production index rose by 0.7% in April, after falling in February and March,” DOT said. “Most notable, there were increases in production by utilities, up 5.8%, and manufacturing, up 0.3%

On the downside, it noted mining production fell 2.3% in April as mining employment also declined while overall employment increased. Also the Institute for Supply Management’s Manufacturing Index moved lower but remained above 50, indicating slowing but positive manufacturing growth.

Despite the monthly gain, April 2016 for-hire freight shipments fell 0.3% from April 2015.

The March index was revised downward to 119.5 from 120 in last month’s release. Monthly numbers for January and February were also revised down slightly, as were February through December 2014.

Even with these changes, the level of freight shipments in April was just 2% below the all-time high level of 123.6 in December 2014 (TSI records begin in 2000).

The April level was below that of 10 of the 12 months of 2015. However, the index remains high compared to earlier years, rising 27.9% since the low of 94.7 in April 2009

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.