Freight Transportation Services Index, July 2012 - July 2017. Graphic: U.S. DOT

Freight Transportation Services Index, July 2012 - July 2017. Graphic: U.S. DOT

The level of for-hire freight shipments in the U.S during July hit another record high, according to new Transportation Department figures, eclipsing two previous records set just earlier this year.

The Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI) increased 1.4% from the month before to a reading of 128.2, which 0.7% above the previous all-time high in May. This latest reading is up 2.7% from July 2016.

The June index was revised to 126.4 from 126.2 in last month’s release. Monthly numbers for April and May were revised up slightly.

During the first seven months of 2017, the freight index averaged 2.9% higher than the first seven months of 2016. 

The Freight TSI measures the month-to-month changes in for-hire 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 with data from trucking, rail, inland waterways, pipelines and air freight.

The July increase in the Freight TSI was driven by gains in trucking, pipeline and water, while rail carloads decreased and air freight and rail intermodal were stable, according to the department.

The increase took place against a background of growth in several other indicators in July. Employment and personal income both increased, while the Federal Reserve Board Industrial Production index grew by 0.4%, with gains in mining and utilities even as the manufacturing index was down. The Institute for Supply Management’s Purchasing Managers’ Index showed positive but slowing growth. However, housing starts declined in July.

July was the third month in a row in which the Freight TSI exceeded the level of all months prior to 2017, and the fourth month in 2017 when it did. Since July 2016, the Freight TSI has reached or exceeded the level of 124.3, which it did not reach until July 2016, in nine months out of 13, and in all months from December 2016 on.

The July index is 35.4% above the April 2009 low during the most recent recession. For-hire freight shipments are up 13.2% in the five years from July 2012 and are up 17.9% in the 10 years from July 2007.

Evan Lockridge

Evan Lockridge

Business Contributing Editor

Trucking journalist since 1990, in the news business since early ‘80s.