December freight shipments set all-time high

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The amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry rose 3.9 percent in December from November, the largest monthly rise in 17 years, which brought the level of freight shipments to an all-time high, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ Freight Transportation Services Index released Wednesday, Feb. 8. Shipments in December were at the highest level in the 22-year history of the series.

BTS, a part of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration, reported that the level of freight shipments measured by the Freight TSI, 113.7, surpassed the previous high of 113.3 in January 2005 by 0.4 percent. After dipping to a recent low in April 2009 (94.3) when freight shipments were at their lowest level since June 1997 (92.3), freight shipments increased in 22 of the last 32 months, rising 20.6 percent during that period.

For the full year 2011, freight shipments measured by the index were up 6.4 percent, the highest full-year growth rate since 2002, and marked the third consecutive year with an increase. Freight shipments are up 3.6 percent in the five years from December 2006 and up 16.3 percent in the 10 years from December 2001 despite declines in recent years.

The Freight TSI rose 3.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011, the second consecutive quarterly increase. The index rose in nine of the last 10 quarters. December freight shipments rose 6.4 percent from December 2010 and 13.0 percent from December 2009 to surpass the previous all-time high for the month of December (111.4) reached in 2005.

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.