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Rail Traffic Higher Than Year-Earlier Level for 11th Straight Month

December 7, 2010
The Association of American Railroads (AAR) reports that monthly rail carloads for November 2010 were up 4.5 percent compared with the same period last year, while intermodal traffic was up 11.3 percent compared with November of 2009. Seasonally adjusted AAR data for November showed a month-to-month dip in carloads, down 1.1 percent from October 2010, as well as in intermodal traffic, down 0.4 percent from the month before.

“Even though U.S. rail volumes were down in November from October levels — due largely to Thanksgiving — November marks the 11th straight month in which rail volumes were higher than year-earlier levels. That hasn’t happened since January 2006,” said AAR senior vice president John Gray. “Granted, 2009 was a bad year for rail traffic, but like the economy in general, rail traffic has been slowly improving. We’re hopeful that recent gains in consumer confidence and some recent encouraging signs regarding consumer spending will mean a continuation of economic growth and further growth in rail traffic.”

On an unadjusted basis, November also saw carload gains in 14 of the 19 commodity groups tracked by AAR compared with the same period last year. Four categories in particular saw solid gains: metallic ores up 86 percent; primary metal products up 26 percent; coke up 19.9 percent, and crushed stone, gravel and sand up 18.7 percent compared with the same month last year.

While railroads continue to bring employees back to work and cars out of storage, data show the pace slowed slightly in recent months. During the month of October, the most recent period for industry employment data, railroads added 191 people to the employee rolls. Railroads brought 465 rail cars out of storage in November, with 317,810 cars, or roughly 20.8 percent of the North American railcar fleet, still in storage. 

For more information, visit www.aar.org.