Rail Freight Traffic Remains Down from Year Ago

WASHINGTON — Freight traffic on U.S. railroads remained sharply down from a year ago during the week ended April 25, the Association of American Railroads reported.

U.S. railroads originated 260,652 cars during the week, down 22.4 percent from the comparison week in 2008, although up 2.1 percent from the previous week this year. In comparison with last year, loadings were down 20.7 percent in the West and 24.7 percent in the East.

Eighteen of 19 carload commodity groups were down from last year, with only the catch-all category of all other carloads defying the trend and showing a 12.8 percent increase. Declines among the remaining commodity groups ranged from 8.0 percent for grain mill products to 62.4 percent for metals.

Intermodal volume of 184,509 trailers or containers was off 17.8 percent from last year, although up 0.7 percent from the previous week this year. Container volume fell 12.4 percent from last year, while trailer volume dropped 37.1 percent.

Total volume was estimated at 27.7 billion ton-miles, off 21.1 percent from 2008 but up 1.8 percent from the previous week this year.

For the first 16 weeks of 2009, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 4,286,128 carloads, down 18.0 percent from 2008; 2,974,269 trailers or containers, down 16.2 percent; and total volume of an estimated 455.0 billion ton-miles, down 16.9 percent.

Canadian railroads reported volume of 60,682 cars for the week, down 23.5 percent from last year, and 41,679 trailers or containers, down 14.1 percent. For the first 16 weeks of 2009, Canadian railroads reported cumulative volume of 979,179 carloads, down 21.1 percent from last year; and 650,717 trailers or containers, down 13.7 percent.

Mexican railroads reported originated volume of 10,944 cars, down 5.7 percent from last year, and 5,858 trailers or containers, up 0.5 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 16 weeks of 2009 was reported as 176,408 carloads, down 10.4 percent from last year; and 75,567 trailers or containers, down 19.2 percent.

Combined North American rail volume for the first 16 weeks of 2009 on 14 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 5,441,715 carloads, down 18.4 percent from last year, and 3,700,553 trailers and containers, down 15.8 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.