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Rail Freight Volume Continues to Show Signs of Recovery

March 11, 2010
Rail freight volume on U.S. railroads is continuing to show some signs of recovery, with both carload freight and intermodal traffic during the week ended March 6 registering gains from last year, the Association of American Railroads reported today. 

U.S. railroads originated 285,160 carloads during the week, up 3.7 percent from the comparable week in 2009, but down 11.5 percent from 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 totaled 212,296 trailers and containers, up 17.9 percent from last year and up 2.9 percent compared with 2008. Compared with the same week in 2009, container volume increased 22.6 percent and trailer volume slipped 3.2 percent. Compared with the same week in 2008, container volume was up 15.3 percent while trailer volume fell 36.2 percent.
 
Total volume for the week was estimated at 31.1 billion ton-miles, up 5.1 percent from last year but down 8.3 from 2008.

In the Eastern U.S., carloads were up 9 percent compared with the same week last year, but down 11.4 percent compared with 2008. In the Western U.S., carloads were up 0.3 percent compared with 2009, but down 11.6 percent compared with 2008.
 
Fourteen of 19 carload commodity groups showed gains from a year ago with nine registering double digit percentage increases. Among commodities showing the largest gains were metals, up 63.3 percent; primary forest products, up 46.8 percent; waste and scrap, up 29.1 percent; coke, up 21.4 percent, and chemicals and motor vehicles, both up 18.4 percent. On the downside, coal loadings were down 4.6 percent, while the catch-all “all other carload” category fell 22.7 percent.
 
For the first 9 weeks of 2010, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 2,431,821 carloads, down 0.5 percent from 2009 and 16.1 percent from 2008; 1,815,134 trailers or containers, up 7.4 percent from 2009, but down 9.5 percent from 2008, and total volume of an estimated 264.5 billion ton-miles, up 0.4 percent from 2009 but down 13.2 percent from 2008.
 
Canadian railroads reported volume of 74,604 cars for the week, up 23 percent from last year, and 44,971 trailers or containers, up 20.7 percent from 2009. For the first 9 weeks of 2010, Canadian railroads reported cumulative volume of 639,054 carloads, up 13.6 percent from last year, and 392,805 trailers or containers, up 6.3 percent from last year.
 
Mexican railroads reported originated volume of 13,375 cars, up 16.3 percent from the same week last year, and 7,153 trailers or containers, up 69.6 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 9 weeks of 2010 was reported as 120,693 carloads, up 22.3 percent from last year; and 58,305 trailers or containers, up 38.4 percent.
 
Combined North American rail volume for the first 9 weeks of 2010 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 3,191,568 carloads, up 2.7 percent from last year, and 2,266,244 trailers and containers, up 7.8 percent from last year.