Monthly freight index up 1.9% in March, year-over-year up 4.8%

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Updated May 12, 2011

Freight Tsi

The amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry increased 1.9 percent in March from February to reach the highest level since July 2008, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ Freight Transportation Services Index released Wednesday, May 11. The March increase followed a decline in February.

BTS, a part of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration, reported that shipments measured by the Freight TSI rose 15.1 percent over the last 23 months, starting in May 2009, after declining 15.7 percent in the previous 16 months beginning in January 2008. Freight shipments have increased in 17 of the last 23 months. Freight shipments in March (108.6 on the index) rose 15.1 percent from the recent low in April 2009 (94.3) when freight shipments were at their lowest level since July 1997.

Freight shipments reached a 33-month high in March despite a slight slowdown in the rate of growth in the beginning of 2011 compared to the end of 2010. For the first three months of 2011, freight shipments measured by the index were up 1.3 percent following a 2.1 percent increase during the final three months of 2010. The first quarter of 2011 saw the seventh consecutive quarterly increase since the second quarter of 2009.

Although freight shipments rose 4.8 percent from March 2010 to March 2011, they remain below the recent high for the month of March (111.7) reached in 2005. The March level is down 4.2 percent from the historic freight shipment peak reached in January 2005 (113.3). Freight shipments are down 2.1 percent in the five years from March 2006, but are up 9.4 percent in the 10 years from March 2001 despite recent declines.

The Freight TSI measures the month-to-month output of the for-hire freight transportation industry and consists of data from for-hire trucking, rail, inland waterways, pipelines and air freight. The seasonally adjusted index includes historic data from 1990 to the present. The baseline year is 2000.