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Rail Carload Freight Reaches Highest Level in More Than a Year

March 4, 2010
Carload freight volume on U.S. railroads reached its highest level in more than a year during the week ending February 27, the Association of American Railroads reported. 

U.S. railroads originated 290,261 carloads during the week ended February 27, up 2.6 percent from the comparable week in 2009 and the highest level reported since the week ended December 6, 2008. However, the total was still down 13.5 percent from comparison week in 2008. In order to offer a complete picture of the progress in rail traffic, AAR now reports 2010 weekly rail traffic with comparison weeks in both 2009 and 2008.
 
Intermodal traffic of 205,817 trailers and containers reached its highest level so far this year, up 17.5 percent from last year, but down 8.1 percent compared with 2008. Compared with the same week in 2009, container volume increased 23.2 percent and trailer volume fell 6.4 percent. Compared with the same week in 2008, container volume was up 0.5 percent while trailer volume fell 37.5 percent. The comparison week from last year was affected by the Chinese New Year, which has a significant impact on container volume.
 
Total volume for the week was estimated at 31.6 billion ton-miles, up 3.9 percent from last year but down 10.5 from 2008.

In the Eastern U.S., carloads were up 3.3 percent compared with the same week last year, but off 16 percent compared with 2008. In the Western U.S., carloads were up 2 percent compared with 2009, but down 11.7 percent compared with 2008.
 
Fifteen of 19 carload commodity groups showed gains from a year ago with 10 registering double-digit percentage increases. Among commodities showing the largest gains were metals, up 45.8 percent; farm products other than grain, 39.8 percent; primary forest products, 22.1 percent; grain mill products, 21.7 percent; and motor vehicles, 19.0 percent. Coal loadings were off 6.5 percent while the catch-all “all other carload” category fell 15.7 percent.
 
For the first 8 weeks of 2010, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 2,146,661 carloads, down 1.1 percent from 2009 and 16.7 percent from 2008; 1,602,838 trailers or containers, up 6.1 percent from 2009, but down 10.9 percent from 2008, and total volume of an estimated 233.4 billion ton-miles, down 0.2 percent from 2009 and 13.8 percent from 2008.
 
Canadian railroads reported volume of 71,378 cars for the week, up 12.2 percent from last year, and 43,445 trailers or containers, up 11 percent from 2009. For the first 8 weeks of 2010, Canadian railroads reported cumulative volume of 564,450 carloads, up 12.4 percent from last year, and 347,834 trailers or containers, up 4.7 percent from last year.
 
Mexican railroads reported originated volume of 14,057 cars, up 17 percent from the same week last year, and 6,909 trailers or containers, up 59.2 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 8 weeks of 2010 was reported as 107,318 carloads, up 23.1 percent from last year; and 51,152 trailers or containers, up 34.9 percent.
 
Combined North American rail volume for the first 8 weeks of 2010 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads totaled 2,818,429 carloads, up 2.1 percent from last year, and 2,001,824 trailers and containers, up 6.5 percent from last year.

For more information, visit www.aar.org.