Huge Divergence Between the DOW Tran Index and Dept of Transportation Stats

Transportation is humming according to the US Bureau of Transportation. The Dow transportation index is another matter.

A reader asked me to include the Dow Jones Transportation Index in my analysis of bear markets. That led me to Bureau of Transportation (BTS) data that I had not investigated before.

Here are some charts I created from data downloads plus an additional chart from Fred. The BTS most recent data is for October.

Truck Tonnage Index

Up, up and away.

Source: The U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) calculation is from American Trucking Association Monthly Truck Tonnage Report.

The index made a new record high of 118 in October.

Rail Freight Carloads

Source: Rail freight carloads - Association of American Railroads

Seasonally-adjusted rail freight carloads - U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) calculation from data collected by Association of American Railroads.

The monthly rail carloads and intermodals are estimated by dividing the weekly sum by 7 (7 days in a week) and then summing for the number of days in the month (31 days for May, 30 days for June, etc.).

Rail Freight Intermodal Traffic

Intermodal freight transport involves the transportation of freight in an intermodal container or vehicle, using multiple modes of transportation (e.g., rail, ship, and truck), without any handling of the freight itself when changing modes.

Seasonally-adjusted, intermodal traffic peaked in July of 2018. Unadjusted traffic peaked in October.

Transportation Services Index

Up, up, and away.

Source: The TSI numbers are BTS estimates.

Rail Freight Traffic vs Carloads Seasonally Adjusted

The above chart suggests decreasing dependence on rail coupled with an increasing number of intermodal shifts to some other form of transportation, most likely trucks.

Humming Along

The BTS data makes you think the economy is humming on all four cylinders. The DOW transportation index is another matter indeed.

The November and December BTS data might be interesting.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Comments (9)
No. 1-8

Maybe it's all a Potemkin Facade? And if so, we need to deal with that, and cease searching for truth and reason in the con job? Google "The Automatic Earth 2019: Zombie Markets Before the Fall" for a very fair treatise on the subject of Price (Truth?) discovery.


Awe, hell, let me make it easy on ya,


I wonder if the step-down in rail car volume around 2016 could be due to coal power generation plant closures and pipeline completions?


Yes. In spite of the constant doom and gloom on this blog, the economy continues to move forward at a slow pace (2% average for 10 years) and I see no reason for this to change in the near term. The transport stats are another clue to continued slow growth.


The large number of jobs sitting empty are another clue.