Weather Impacts Rail Freight Traffic to Start September

WASHINGTON — At least partly because of weather-related issues (Hurricane Gustav at the beginning of the week and Tropical Storm Hanna later in the week), freight traffic on U.S. railroads was off during the first week of September in comparison with the corresponding week last year, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported today.

Both this year’s week and the comparison week from last year included the Labor Day holiday.

Total volume was estimated 32.0 billion ton-miles, down 3.3 percent from the comparable week last year.

Carload freight in the week totaled 306,340 cars, off 3.5 percent from last year. Volume was down 1.7 percent in the West and 6.1 percent in the East.

Intermodal volume, which is not included in the carload data, totaled 200,876 trailers or containers, down 3.4 percent from a year ago. Trailer volume was off 2.8 percent while container traffic was down 3.5 percent.

Cumulative volume for the first 36 weeks of 2008 totaled 11,705,340 carloads, up 0.2 percent from 2007; 8,029,188 trailers or containers, down 2.9 percent; and total volume of an estimated 1.2 trillion ton-miles, up 1.3 percent from last year.

On Canadian railroads, during the week ended September 6 carload traffic totaled 71,730 cars, down 2.9 percent from last year while intermodal volume totaled 46,987 trailers or containers, up 4.4 percent from last year.

Cumulative originations for the first 36 weeks of 2008 on the Canadian railroads totaled 2,668,399 carloads, down 4.0 percent from last year, and 1,725,431 trailers and containers, an increase of 4.1 percent from last year.

Combined cumulative volume for the first 36 weeks of 2008 on U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 14,373,739 carloads, down 0.6 percent from last year, and 9,754,619 trailers and containers, a 1.7 percent decrease from last year.

The AAR also reported that carload freight on the Mexican railroad Kansas City Southern de Mexico (KCSM) during the week ended September 6 totaled 9,837 cars, down 12.9 percent from last year. KCSM reported intermodal volume of 5,766 trailers or containers, up 12.1 percent from the 36th week of 2007.

For the first 36 weeks of 2008, KCSM reported cumulative volume of 374,408 cars, down 4.1 percent from last year, and 175,194 trailers or containers, up 8.4 percent.

Railroads reporting to AAR account for 89 percent of U.S. carload freight and 98 percent of rail intermodal volume. When the U.S. operations of Canadian railroads are included, the figures increase to 96 percent and 100 percent. The Canadian railroads reporting to the AAR account for 91 percent of Canadian rail traffic. Railroads provide more than 40 percent of U.S. intercity freight transportation, more than any other mode, and rail traffic figures are regarded as an important economic indicator.

AAR is the world’s leading railroad policy, research and technology organization focusing on the safety and productivity of rail carriers.