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The latest AAR Rail Time Indicators report is showing more mixed data from depending on how you prefer to look at it.  On a year over year basis carloads and intermodal traffic continue to improve while the data compared to 2008 remains weak (via AAR):

• U.S. freight railroads originated 1,122,308 carloads in July 2010, an average of 280,577 carloads per week — up 4.1% from July 2009 (see chart below right) but down 14.6% from July 2008 on a non-seasonally adjusted basis.  Unadjusted weekly average U.S. rail carloads were 283,126 in June 2010, 288,419 in May 2010, and 294,758 in April 2010.  Thus, they’ve fallen for three straight months.

• U.S. railroads originated 883,953 intermodal trailers and containers in July 2010, an average of 220,988 per week on an unadjusted basis.  That’s up from an average of 220,267 per week in June 2010, the highest weekly average since October 2008, and up 17.3% from July 2009.

• In contrast to U.S. carload traffic, U.S. intermodal volumes have continued to rise — average unadjusted weekly trailer and container traffic has risen for five straight months, thanks largely to conversions of over-the-road domestic traffic to rail and to growth in international trade.  In the first six months of 2010, import TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) at six major U.S. ports — Los Angeles, Long Beach, Savannah, New York & New Jersey, Seattle, and Norfolk — rose 18.2% compared with the first six months of 2009.  Export TEUs rose 17.4%.

• The last week of July 2010 (July 2010 is weeks 27-30, so the last week is week 30 ) was the highest volume week for U.S. railroads so far in 2010:  carloads were 300,292, the highest since week 47 (in November) of 2008; intermodal volume was 232,895 trailers and containers, the highest since week 29 (in July) of 2008.  Combined carload and intermodal volume in week 30 of 2010 was the highest since week 46 (in November) of 2008.

Rail Time Indicators Aug 2010