AAR: Sharp Decline Reported in Rail Freight Traffic

WASHINGTON — Freight traffic on U.S. railroads was off sharply during the week ended April 18 in comparison with a year ago, the Association of American Railroads reported April 23.

U.S. railroads originated 255,269 cars during the week, down 24.3 percent from the comparison week in 2008, although up 2.8 percent from the previous week this year. In comparison with last year, loadings were down 20.6 percent in the West and 28.6 percent in the East. All 19 carload commodity groups were down from last year, with declines ranging from 9.3 percent for grain mill products to 63.6 percent for metallic ores.

IIntermodal volume of 183,141 trailers or containers was off 18.3 percent from last year, although up 2.7 percent from the previous week this year.  Container volume fell 12.9 percent from last year, while trailer volume dropped 37.7 percent.

Total volume was estimated at 27.2 billion ton-miles, off 23.2 percent from 2008. For the first 15 weeks of 2009, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 4,025,476 carloads, down 17.7 percent from 2008; 2,789,760 trailers or containers, down 16.1 percent; and total volume of an estimated 427.3 billion ton-miles, down 16.6 percent.Canadian railroads reported volume of 58,833 cars for the week, down 25.2 percent from last year, and 41,421 trailers or containers, down 17.0 percent. For the first 15 weeks of 2009, Canadian railroads reported cumulative volume of 918,497 carloads, down 20.9 percent from last year; and 609,038 trailers or containers, down 13.7 percent.

Mexican railroads reported originated volume of 10,722 cars, down 9.8 percent from last year, and 4,997 trailers or containers, down 21.9 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 15 weeks of 2009 was reported as 165,464 carloads, down 10.7 percent from last year; and 69,709 trailers or containers, down 20.5 percent.

Combined North American rail volume for the first 15 weeks of 2009 on 14 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 5,109,437 carloads, down 18.1 percent from last year, and 3,468,507 trailers and containers, down 15.7 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.