Transportation Economic Trends

Inflation and Transportation

Consumer Price Index

Inflation occurs when prices rise and purchasing power gets weaker over time. A number of factors drive inflation and which factors have the most impact can change from month to month. This page looks at how transportation costs can impact inflation from the perspective of the consumer, transportation providers, and non-transportation industries purchasing transportation services. For  prices faced by transportation providers and non-transportation industries purchasing transportation services, see

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Transportation Prices Faced by Consumers: Consumer Price Index (CPI)

The Consumer Price Index (CPI), as calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, measures the average change over time of prices paid by consumers for a market basket of consumer goods and services. 

CPI for Overall Transportation

The annual change in CPI is a measure of inflation. Year-over-year increases in the transportation CPI indicate increasing prices faced by consumers. 

Price of Transportation v. Other Goods and Services

The graph below shows the CPI by commodity. The values are indexed to January 2012. Values above 100 (shown as the area above the straight line axis of each commodity), represent increased prices and a positive contribution to inflation, whereas the values below 100 (shown as the area below the straight line axis of each commodity), represent decreasing prices and a negative contribution to inflation. 

Vehicle Ownership and Operating Costs

Vehicle Ownership Costs

The CPI for new vehicles, used cars and trucks, and new and used motor vehicles represent vehicle ownership costs. 

Vehicle Operating Costs

Motor vehicle insurance, parking fees and tolls, maintenance and repair, fees, parts and equipment, tires, and gasoline represent vehicle operating costs.

Contribution of Transportation to Overall Inflation

The below graph compares the percent change from the same month of the previous year in the contribution of transportation to inflation against the percent change in all items.  When looking at the breakout of contribution of transportation to inflation by item, the majority of months see motor fuel as the largest contributor to inflation. 

Recommended citation
U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Transportation Economic Trends, available at

Bureau of Transportation Statistics
The Bureau of Transportation Statistics, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, is the preeminent source of statistics on commercial aviation, multimodal freight activity, and transportation economics, and provides context to decision makers and the public for understanding statistics on transportation.
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