Monthly freight index down 1.8% in May; year-to-year up 1.4%

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Freight Index

The amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry declined 1.8 percent in May from April, falling for the second consecutive month, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ Freight Transportation Services Index. BTS, a part of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration, on Wednesday, July 13, reported that freight shipments in May measured by the Freight TSI dropped to their lowest level since November 2010.

Freight shipments have increased in 17 of the last 25 months but declined in three of the past four months. Shipments rose 12.0 percent over the last 25 months, starting in May 2009, after declining 15.7 percent in the previous 15 months beginning in February 2008. In May 2011, freight shipments returned to about the same level as October 2008 when the amount of freight shipped was early in its decline. For the first five months of 2011, freight shipments measured by the index were down 1.2 percent.

Freight shipments in May (105.6 on the index) rose 12.0 percent from the recent low in April 2009 (94.3) when freight shipments were at their lowest level since June 1997 (92.3). The May 2011 level is down 6.8 percent from the historic freight shipment peak reached in January 2005 (113.3). Freight shipments are down 5.6 percent in the five years from May 2006. Shipments are up 5.9 percent in the 10 years from May 2001 despite recent declines.

Although freight shipments rose 1.4 percent from May 2010 to May 2011, they remain below the early recession level of May 2008 (110.2) and the recent high for the month of May (111.9) reached in 2006.

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.