Trucking Industry Showing More Freight and More Jobs

by Jana Ritter - Published: 2/13/2013

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics' (BTS) Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI) released today, the amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry rose 1.0 percent in December from November 2012, rising for the second consecutive month. The December 2012 index level (109.9) was 16.6 percent above the April 2009 low during the recession.


The Freight TSI measures the month-to-month changes in freight shipments by mode of transportation in tons and ton-miles, which are combined into one index. The index measures the output of the for-hire freight transportation industry and consists of data from for-hire trucking, rail, inland waterways, pipelines and airfreight.  The Freight TSI increased in December 2012, its second consecutive month of growth, with both rail freight and trucking showing large increases. The rail and trucking increases were due, at least in part, to further recovery from Hurricane Sandy, as well as general economic activity.

Since peaking in December 2011 (114.0) at the highest level in the 22-year history of the Freight TSI series, the index remained in a narrow band through 2012, except for a drop in October (107.1), its lowest level since May 2011 (105.2). The index ended 2012 in December at the same level it started in January (109.9). After dipping to 94.3 in April 2009 during the recession, freight shipments increased in 29 of the last 44 months, rising 16.6 percent during that period.  Freight shipments in December 2012 (109.9) were 16.6 percent higher than the recent low in April 2009 during the recession (94.3). In April 2009, freight shipments were at their lowest level since June 1997 (92.3). The December 2012 level is down 3.5 percent from the historic peak reached in December 2011 (114.0).

More good news reported today in a release from the Commerce Department stating that US retail sales rose 0.1% in January, following a 0.5% gain in December. Six of 13 major categories showed increases, led by a 1.1% rise at general merchandise stores. While the demand at auto dealers fell 0.1% from the prior month, sales excluding automobiles rose 0.2%, after rising 0.3% in December. Higher retail and manufacturing always translates into more activity for the trucking industry as well.

Already, the trucking industry has been affected by the major increase in oil and gas production across many states, even resulting in a truck driver shortage for many areas. Oklahoma is responding to their labor shortage problems by creating more training programs and the Oklahoma CareerTech system has already stepped up its trucking programs in response to the demand for more oil field trucking jobs in the western part of the state.

In Ohio, more than 167,000 people were already working in the state's growing shale oil and gas industry as of late last year and according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family services, employment has increased another 4,809 (3.1 percent) in the trucking industry as well.