Transportation Sector

What Is the Transportation Sector?

The transportation sector is a category of companies that provide services to move people or goods, as well as transportation infrastructure. Technically, transportation is a sub-group of the industrials sector according to the Global Industry Classification Standard (GICS). The transportation sector consists of several industries including air freight and logistics, airlines, marine, road and rail, and transportation infrastructure. These industries are further broken down into the sub-industries air freight and logistics, airlines, marine, railroads, trucking, airport services, highways and rail tracks, and marine ports and services.

Key Takeaways

  • The transportation sector is an important industry sector in the economy that deals with the movement of people and products.
  • These include companies such as airlines, trucking, railroads, shipping, and logistics firms, as well as those that provide transportation infrastructure.
  • The Dow Jones Transportation Index (DJTA) was the U.S.’s first stock market index, and still tracks 20 of the most important companies in the sector.

Understanding the Transportation Sector

The performance of companies in the transportation industry is highly sensitive to fluctuations in company earnings and the price of transportation services. Main factors affecting company earnings include fuel costs, labor costs, demand for services, geopolitical events, and government regulation. Many of these factors are interconnected. For example, if the U.S. government passes regulations that make it more difficult for people to earn their commercial drivers’ license, this will reduce the supply of drivers, driving up the cost of hiring drivers.

Oil prices are a key factor for transportation, as the commodity’s price generally has an influence on transportation expenses. Gas and fuel prices that rise will increase costs for a trucking company, eating into their profit and potentially reducing their stock price. A very real recent example of the effect of costs driving the price of transportation industry stock is the effect of the last few years’ low fuel prices helping to boost the value of airline stocks. Airline companies’ costs have been reduced by the low fuel prices, increasing profit margins and helping to put upward pressure the price of airline company stock.

Investing in the Transportation Sector

You can invest in companies that move people and products by buying shares of individual transportation companies, or through sector-specific mutual funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that specialize in the transportation sector. The transportation sector is one of the most broadly diversified with industrial companies representing airlines, railroads, truckers, equipment and leasing stocks, and logistics companies. Funds that track this sector will track a benchmark sector index like the DJTA.

The Dow Jones Transportation Index

The Dow Jones Transportation Average (DJTA) is a price-weighted average of 20 transportation stocks traded in the United States. The DJTA is, in fact, the oldest U.S. stock index, first compiled in 1884 by Charles Dow, co-founder of Dow Jones & Company. The index initially consisted of nine railroad companies, a testament to their dominance of the U.S. transportation sector in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and two non-railroad companies. In addition to railroads, the index now includes airlines, trucking, marine transportation, delivery services and logistics companies.

Ticker Company
NYSE:
ALK
Alaska Air Group
Nasdaq:
CHRW
C.H. Robinson Worldwide
NYSE:
CSX
CSX Corp.
NYSE:
CNW
Con-way
NYSE:
DAL
Delta Air Lines
Nasdaq:
EXPD
Expeditors International of Washington
NYSE:
FDX
FedEx
NYSE:
GMT
GATX
Nasdaq:
JBHT
J.B. Hunt Transport Services
Nasdaq:
JBLU
JetBlue Airways
NYSE:
KSU
Kansas City Southern
NYSE:
KEX
Kirby
Nasdaq:
LSTR
Landstar System
NYSE:
MATX
Matson
NYSE:
NSC
Norfolk Southern
NYSE:
R
Ryder System
NYSE:
LUV
Southwest Airlines
NYSE:
UNP
Union Pacific
NYSE:
UAL
United Continental Holdings
NYSE:
UPS
United Parcel Service

S&P Transportation Select Index

Additionally, the S&P Transportation Select Industry index provides a secondary benchmark for the sector.

Number of Constituents 42
Inception Date June 18, 2006
Maximum Market Cap 81,926.05
Minimum Market Cap 423.22
Mean Market Cap 8,861.79
Median Market Cap 2,543.45

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