A measure of the amount of freight carried by commercial trucking, rail, inland waterways, pipelines, and air freight operators fell in March to its lowest level since last June, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS).
The agency said its Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI) fell 2.1% in March from the revised February index, falling for the second consecutive month. Coupled with a 3.1% decline in February, the news left the index down 5.1% since January and at its lowest level in nearly a year.
Compared to statistics established since the BTS established the TSI in 2000, the index’s March reading of 130.0 was 8.1% below the measure’s all-time high level of 141.5 set in August 2019, about six months before the pandemic began. 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.
The TSI’s slump was forced by a large decline in truck freight volumes, possibly due to supply chain issues, that outweighed gains in the other modes—water, rail carloads, rail intermodal, and air freight—the BTS said.
Likewise, the March decrease took place against the background of growth in other economic indicators from February to March, a BTS analysis showed. For example, March trends show that the Federal Reserve Board’s Industrial Production (IP) Index grew 1.4%, housing starts were up 19.4%, personal Income increased by 21.1%, and the Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing (ISM) index was up 3.9 points to 64.7, indicating growing strength in manufacturing.
12-month changes in the #freight index (TSI). From March 2020 to March 2021 the index fell 4.0% compared to a decline of 2.0% from March 2019 to March 2020 and an increase of 2.0% from March 2018 to March 2019 #economy #transportation https://t.co/0Jaw55odXu pic.twitter.com/Qit4IptExt— TransportStats (@TransportStats) May 12, 2021