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Rail Traffic Levels Off After 12 Weeks of Gains

May 27, 2010
The Association of American Railroads (AAR) reports that rail traffic has leveled off after 12 consecutive weeks of gains. Both rail carloads and intermodal volume remain up in comparison to 2009.

U.S. railroads originated 288,114 carloads during the week ended May 22, up 10.6 percent from the comparable week in 2009, but down 12.4 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 215,118 trailers and containers, up 12.7 percent from last year but down 7.9 percent from 2008. Compared with the same week in 2009, container volume increased 14.4 percent while trailer volume rose 3.9 percent. Compared with the same week in 2008, container volume was down 0.7 percent while trailer volume fell 34.4 percent.

Carload volume on Eastern railroads was up 13.6 percent from last year, but down 17.9 percent from 2008. In the West, carload volume was up 8.6 percent from last year but down 8.1 percent from two years ago.

Fifteen of 19 carload commodity groups were up from last year, led by a 100.2 percent jump in metallic ores and a 79.7 percent gain in metals. Other significant increases included coke, 59.7 percent; motor vehicles and equipment, 46.8 percent; and waste and scrap materials, 32.4 percent. Other notable increases included grain, 22.8 percent; crushed stone, sand and gravel, 22 percent; lumber and wood products, 16.7 percent; nonmetallic minerals, 15 percent; stone, clay, and glass products, 11.2 percent; and primary forest products, 10.3 percent. Declines in four carload commodity groups were led by farm products excluding grain at 12.2 percent.

For the first 20 weeks of 2010, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 5,636,940 carloads, up 6.5 percent from 2009, but down 13.7 percent from 2008, and 4,108,176 trailers or containers, up 10.4 percent from 2009, but down 8.1 percent from 2008.

Canadian railroads reported volume of 71,077 cars for the week, up 32.1 percent from last year, and 49,261 trailers or containers, up 33.2 percent from 2009. For the first 20 weeks of 2010, Canadian railroads reported cumulative volume of 1,451,639 carloads, up 20.6 percent from last year, and 896,805 trailers or containers, up 10.7 percent from last year.

Mexican railroads reported originated volume of 14,713 cars, up 13.4 percent from the same week last year, and 7,020 trailers or containers, up 35.5 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 20 weeks of 2010 was reported as 268,297 carloads, up 22.5 percent from last year; and 128,489 trailers or containers, up 34.5 percent.

Combined North American rail volume for the first 20 weeks of 2010 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads totaled 7,356,876 carloads, up 9.6 percent from last year, and 5,133,470 trailers and containers, up 10.9 percent from last year.

The AAR is the world's leading railroad policy, research, and technology organization. AAR members include the major freight railroads, or Class I railroads, of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, as well as Amtrak. For more information, visit www.aar.org.