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Figure 4-2. Productivity in Selected Transportation Industries: 1987-2005 (Output per Employee,1 Index, 1987 = 100)

In general, moving goods is cheaper now than in the past. Productivity has improved in both long-distance railroading and long-distance trucking over the past decade but much more quickly in rail than road transportation. Between 1987 and 2005, output-per-hour worked more than doubled in line-haul railroading but grew only 37 percent in long-distance, general-freight trucking. Line-haul railroads primarily engage in operating railroads for the transport of passengers and/or cargo over a long distance within a rail network. These establishments do not include switching and terminal operations or short-distance (or local) railroads. Long-distance, general-freight trucking establishments are operations other than those primarily engaged in local trucking and specialized trucking. Specialized trucking establishments are engaged in the transportation of freight that, because of size, weight, shape, or other inherent characteristics, requires specialized equipment, such as flatbeds, tankers, or refrigerated trailers.

See paragraph above and table below for explanation of Figure 4-2

Chart in PDF format [3.3MB]

Data represented in the figure
Table in Excel format | Historical data

empty Cell 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
Output per hour workedempty Cell
Air transportation100101989696100104112118122123120121121113126139155167
Line-haul railroads100108115119128140145150156167170173179194207224241248235
General freight trucking, long-distance100101100104108114112115112111117116116119120125129(R) 129131
Postal Service1009999104103105108108108106110112113116117117119121122

Key: R = revised.

1Based on the number of paid hours. Real gross domestic product in the business and nonfarm business sectors is the basis of the output components of the productivity measures. These output components are based on and are consistent with the National Income and Product Accounts (NIPA), including the gross domestic product (GDP) measure, prepared by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Industry Productivity, available at as of June 12, 2007

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