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AAR Reports September 2010 Rail Traffic Continues Measured Recovery

October 13, 2010
The Association of American Railroads (AAR) reports that monthly rail carloads on U.S. railroads in September 2010 were up 7.7 percent compared with the same period last year, but still down 7.5 percent compared with September 2008. According to AAR’s October Rail Time Indicators Report, the weekly average of 297,502 carloads last month was the highest since October 2008.

Intermodal traffic on U.S. railroads in September was up 17.3 percent compared with the same month in 2009, and up 0.2 percent compared with September 2008. September is traditionally one of the highest-volume months of the year for intermodal as retailers begin to stock up for the holidays.

Seasonally adjusted AAR data for September showed an increase in carloads from the previous month, up 1.9 percent from August 2010, while intermodal traffic experienced declines from August 2010, down 0.1 percent.

"September was a steady month for rail traffic with new weekly records set in both carloads and intermodal," said AAR senior vice president John T. Gray. “That said, intermodal traffic gains can be attributed to the upcoming holiday season and the number of railcars coming out of storage are not as significant as during the first few months of the year; all of which is evidence of a slow measured economic recovery."

On an unadjusted basis, September also saw carload gains in 16 of the 19 commodity groups tracked by AAR. In terms of volume change, four categories in particular made significant gains: coal up 30,111 carloads, metallic ores up 16,978 carloads, grain up 14,123 carloads, and crushed stone, sand, and gravel up 11,399 carloads, from the same period last year.

Railroads continue to take rail cars out of storage. Railroads brought 17,638 rail cars out of storage in September, the largest number since April 2010. However, 331,074 freight cars, roughly 21.6 percent of the American railcar fleet, remain in storage.

The Rail Time Indicators report, available at www.aar.org, comprises detailed monthly rail traffic data framed with other key economic indicators to show how freight rail ties into the broader U.S. economy.