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January Freight Rail Traffic Continues Steady Growth

February 8, 2011
The Association of American Railroads (AAR) reports that monthly carloads in January 2011 increased 8 percent compared with the same month last year, for a total of 1,142,293 carloads. According to AAR’s monthly Rail Time Indicators report, intermodal traffic in January increased 7.4 percent for a total of 863,099 trailers and containers compared with January 2010. This growth marks the 13th straight month that combined carloads and intermodal traffic have increased year-over-year, showing the continued gradual upward trend in rail traffic.

“Steady growth is good news for railroads and the economy, but there is still more ground to cover before we return to pre-recession levels,” said AAR senior vice president John T. Gray. “Rail is vital to connecting business to the marketplace, and the gradual gain in intermodal traffic as well as carloads shows how broad U.S. economic recovery may be.”

Overall, 15 of 20 commodity categories saw carload gains on U.S. railroads in January 2011 compared with January 2010. Traffic gains in January were led by metallic ores up 63 percent; primary metal products, up 21 percent, and crushed stone, sand, and gravel up 16.2 percent.

Railroads in January also saw growth in the transportation of chemicals and grain. U.S. railroads originated 120,734 carloads of chemicals in January 2011, averaging 30,184 carloads per week, up 5.9 percent compared with January 2010 and the highest monthly average for chemicals in any January since AAR began tracking commodity traffic. Grain averaged 24,514 weekly carloads in January 2011, up 10 percent compared with January 2010. 

The five commodity categories seeing declines for the month — grain mill products, primary forest products, coke, nonmetallic minerals, and waste and non-ferrous scrap — together accounted for less than 8 percent of total carloads for the month. 

The Rail Time Indicators report, available at www.aar.org, comprises monthly rail traffic data framed with other key economic indicators to show how freight rail is connected to the broader U.S. economy. As previously announced, AAR has made several changes to certain carload commodity groups reported in the Weekly Rail Traffic Report which provides the basis for data in the Rail Time Indicators. Effective Week 1 of 2011, commodity Group 18, Waste and Scrap Materials, has been split into two groups: Iron and Steel Scrap (Group 18) and Waste and Nonferrous Scrap (Group 19). Commodity Group 19 has been renumbered to Commodity Group 20. Crude Petroleum has been moved from the new Commodity Group 20 to Commodity Group 13, Petroleum Products. Finally, Distiller’s Dried Grains has been moved from Commodity Group 8 to Commodity Group 7, Grain Mill Products.

For more information, visit www.aar.org.