Rail Traffic Still Negative Despite Really Easy Comps

(This guest post originally appeared at the author’s blog)

Rail traffic continues to decline despite very easy year over year comps.  In a sure sign of tepid recovery, we continue to see improvement off the lows, but a still very meager traffic trends.  A recovering economy would have no problem overcoming the very low levels of last fall, but we actually continue to see declines.  Total intermodal traffic was down 6.4% versus 2008 and down a staggering 32% versus 2007.  The recovery on Wall Street might be real, but it’s certainly not real on Main Street as these numbers clearly show.   A few commodity groups are showing strong year over year climbs, but all data is still very weak compared to 2007.

rail train

The AAR reports:


The Association of American Railroads today reported that freight rail traffic was down for the Thanksgiving holiday week ended Nov. 28, 2009. U.S. railroads reported originating 246,133 carloads for the week, down 3.9 per cent compared with the same week in 2008 and down 29.3 per cent from the same week in 2007. The comparison week from 2008 included the Thanksgiving Holiday, while the 2007 comparison week did not. In order to offer a complete picture of the progress in rail traffic, AAR will now be reporting 2009 weekly rail traffic with year over year comparisons for both 2008 and 2007.In the Western U.S., carloads were down 3.8 per cent compared with the same week last year, and 23.9 per cent compared with 2007. In the East, carloads were down 4.3 per cent compared with 2008, and 37.3 per cent compared with the same week in 2007.

Intermodal traffic totaled 165,856 trailers and containers, down 6.4 per cent from a year ago and 32.1 per cent from 2007. Compared with the same week in 2008, container volume dropped 0.9 per cent and trailer volume dropped 27.2 per cent. Compared with the same week in 2007, container volume fell 26.2 per cent and trailer volume dropped 51.9 per cent.

While 10 of the 19 carload freight commodity groups were down compared with the same week last year, increases were seen in nonmetallic minerals (38.1 per cent), grain (21.3 per cent), farm products not including grain (20.1 per cent), motor vehicles and equipment (15 per cent), chemicals (13.2 per cent), grain mill products (11.5 per cent), metals and products (11.2 per cent), metallic ores (3.1 per cent) and petroleum products (2.2 per cent). Declines in commodity groups ranged from 0.9 per cent for crushed stone, sand and gravel to 28.3 per cent for coke.

Total volume on U.S. railroads for the week ending Nov. 28, 2009 was estimated at 27.6 billion ton-miles, down 3.8 per cent compared with the same week last year and down 25 per cent from 2007.

For the first 47 weeks of 2009, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 12,571,696 carloads, down 17.1 per cent from 2008 and 18.2 per cent from 2007; 8,967,824 trailers or containers, down 15.5 per cent from 2008 and 18.3 per cent from 2007, and total volume of an estimated 1.35 trillion ton-miles, down 16.2 per cent from 2008 and 16.7 per cent from 2007.

Source: AAR, Railfax

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