Weather, Slow Economy Produce Rail Freight Traffic Decline

WASHINGTON — Bad weather in Wyoming and the Upper Midwest combined with the slow economy to produce another down week for U.S. rail freight traffic during the first week of April, the Association of American Railroads reported today.

U.S. railroads reported originating 262,624 cars during the week, down 20.5 percent from the comparison week in 2008, with loadings down 19.4 percent in the West and 22.0 percent in the East.

Intermodal volume of 184,845 trailers or containers was off 14.7 percent from last year, with container volume falling 9.0 percent and trailer volume dropping 34.0 percent.

Total volume was estimated at 27.9 billion ton-miles, off 19.1 percent from 2008.

Eighteen of nineteen carload freight commodity groups were down from last year, with the miscellaneous category labeled “all other carloads” showing a small 0.3 percent increase. Declines on the other 18 commodity groups ranged from 8.3 percent for coal to 63.8 percent for metals.

For the first 13 weeks of 2009, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 3,521,816 carloads, down 16.7 percent from 2008; 2,428,336 trailers or containers, down 15.4 percent; and total volume of an estimated 373.7 billion ton-miles, down 15.5 percent.

Canadian railroads reported volume of 61,294 cars for the week, down 25.7 percent from last year, and 39,663 trailers or containers, down 17.4 percent. For the first 13 weeks of 2009, Canadian railroads reported cumulative volume of 803,171 carloads, down 20.0 percent from last year; and 530,073 trailers or containers, down 12.6 percent.

Mexican railroads reported originated volume of 11,728 cars, down 41.3 percent from last year, and 5,045 trailers or containers, down 43.0 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 13 weeks of 2009 was reported as 146,324 carloads, down 9.3 percent from last year; and 61,007 trailers or containers, down 18.8 percent.

Combined North American rail volume for the first 13weeks of 2009 on 14 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 4,471,311 carloads, down 17.1 percent from last year, and 3,019,416 trailers and containers, down 15.0 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.