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

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

A measure of the amount of freight moved by the nation’s for-hire transportation industry rebounded to another record high in October, according to new Transportation Department figures, following a decline the month before.

The Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI) increased 0.6% in October from September, which pushed the index to 129.2, 0.2% better than the previous all-time high recorded in August.

The September index was revised to 128.4 from 129.2 in last month’s release. March was revised up slightly while all other months remained unchanged.

When October is compared to the same time in 2016, the freight TSI increased 5.3%.

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 consists of data from trucking, rail, inland waterways, pipelines and air freight.

Significant increases in trucking, rail carloads, rail intermodal, and water led the October gain while air freight declined and pipeline was stable, according to the department. It took place against a background of strong results in economic indicators. The Federal Reserve Board's Industrial Production Index rose by 0.9% in October, with increases in manufacturing and utilities. Also, employment rose, personal income grew and housing starts increased. The Institute for Supply Management’s Manufacturing index, however, declined but still indicated growth.

The Freight TSI’s October level was the third all-time high in four months, and the fourth in six months. The four months from August to November 2017 were the four highest levels the Freight TSI has ever attained. The Freight TSI was above 124 in every month of 2017, a level it exceeded in only two months prior to 2017.

The increase in October is 36.4% above the April 2009 low during the most recent recession.

Evan Lockridge

Evan Lockridge

Business Contributing Editor

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