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Railroads Seeing First Monthly Year-Over-Year Carload Gains Since July 2008

April 14, 2010
The Association of American Railroads (AAR) is reporting that U.S. freight railroads saw a 7.5 percent rise in carloads during March compared with the same month last year, and a decline of 11.5 percent compared with the same month in 2008. According to the April 2010 AAR Rail Time Indicators Report, 16 of the 19 major commodity categories tracked by AAR saw higher carloads last month compared with the same month last year. U.S. rail intermodal traffic, which covers the movement of truck trailers and shipping containers by rail, was up 12.1 percent in March compared with the same month last year, but down 4.5 percent for the same month in 2008.

Commodities showing monthly carload gains included primary metal products, up 66.1 percent compared with March of 2009, grain, up 20.4 percent, and chemicals, up 15.5 percent compared with the same month last year.

“It is important to note that while we are seeing positive growth in carloads compared with last year, things are still down from 2008,” said AAR senior vice president of policy and economics John Gray. “It will take some time for traffic to rebound to where we were in 2006 – the best year in history for rail traffic.”

On a seasonally adjusted basis, U.S. rail carloads in March were up 3.9 percent compared with February 2010, while intermodal was up 2.1 percent from last month. To offer better incremental month-to-month comparisons, AAR now includes seasonally adjusted U.S. rail traffic in the report, using January 1988 - December 2009 as the basis for the seasonal adjustment.

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 ties into the broader U.S. economy. Both the monthly Rail Time Indicators report and a video summary and widget are also available at www.aar.org.