AAR: Rail Freight Traffic Continues to Reflect Slow Economy

WASHINGTON — Freight traffic on U.S. railroads continued to reflect the nation’s economic slowdown during the week ended March 21, the Association of American Railroads reported today.

U.S. railroads reported originating 276,030 cars during the week, down 14.7 percent from the comparison week in 2008, with loadings down 13.0 percent in the West and 17.0 percent in the East.

Intermodal volume of 183,795 trailers or containers was off 12.9 percent from last year, with container volume falling 7.7 percent and trailer volume dropping 30.9 percent.

Total volume was estimated at 29.3 billion ton-miles, off 13.6 percent from 2008.

Eighteen of nineteen carload freight commodity groups were down from last year, with the miscellaneous category labeled “all other carloads” showing the lone increase, up 17.4 percent. Declines on the other 18 commodity groups ranged from 3.9 percent for coal to 57.1 percent both for metals and for metallic ores.

For the first 11 weeks of 2009, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 3,007,032 carloads, down 15.6 percent from 2008; 2,055,140 trailers or containers, down 15.5 percent; and total volume of an estimated 319.2 billion ton-miles, down 14.4 percent.

Canadian railroads reported volume of 60,774 cars for the week, down 22.0 percent from last year, and 38,326 trailers or containers, down 13.2 percent. For the first 11 weeks of 2009, Canadian railroads reported cumulative volume of 681,768 carloads, down 19.0 percent from last year; and 508,685 trailers or containers, down 11.7 percent.

Mexican railroads reported originated volume of 10,795 cars, up 53.9 percent from last year’s 11th week, and 4,003 trailers or containers, up 26.4 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 11 weeks of 2009 was reported as 122,984 carloads, down 6.6 percent from last year; and 51,031 trailers or containers, down 17.6 percent.

Combined North American rail volume for the first 11 weeks of 2009 on 14 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 3,811,784 carloads, down 16.0 percent from last year, and 2,555,137 trailers and containers, down 14.9 percent from last year.

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.