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Rail freight traffic hit the best level of the year, but continues to post year over year declines.  The latest data from the AAR showed a 3% decline versus the same week last year.  This is a clear improvement over recent data, but with very easy comparisons to the stagnant 2008 economy this data continues to represent the weakness of the current economic recovery.  The AAR reports:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Nov. 25, 2009 – Freight traffic on U.S. railroads reached its highest level so far this year during the week ended November 21, the Association of American Railroads reported today.

U.S. railroads reported originating 287,087 carloads for the week, down 6.8 percent compared with the same week in 2008 and down .7 percent from the same week in 2007. Volume was up 2.1 percent from the previous week this year. In order to offer a complete picture of the progress in rail traffic, AAR will now be reporting 2009 weekly rail traffic with year over comparisons for both 2008 and 2007. Note that the comparison weeks from both 2007 and 2008 included the Thanksgiving Holiday.

In the West, carloads were down 8.8 percent compared with the same week last year, and 4.8 percent compared with 2007. In the East, carloads were down 3.8 percent compared with 2008, but up 6 percent compared with the same week in 2007.

Intermodal traffic totaled 213,382 trailers and containers, down 3.1 percent from a year ago but up 11.5 percent from 2007. Compared with the same week in 2008, container volume rose 3.4 and trailer volume dropped 26.8 percent. Compared with the same week in 2007, container volume rose 19.4 percent and trailer volume dropped 16.6 percent. Intermodal traffic was up 2.6 percent from the previous week this year.

While 13 of the 19 carload freight commodity groups were down compared with the same week last year, increases were seen in nonmetallic minerals (26.5 percent), grain (8.1 percent), chemicals (8.1 percent), waste and scrap metal (6.5 percent), grain mill products (6.4 percent) and food and kindred products (.4 percent). Declines in commodity groups ranged from .3 percent for petroleum products to 22.1 percent for crushed stone, sand and gravel.

Total volume on U.S. railroads for the week ending Nov. 21, 2009 was estimated at 32.1 billion ton-miles, down 6.1 percent compared with the same week last year but up 4.9 percent from 2007.

For the first 46 weeks of 2009, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 12,325,563 carloads, down 17.3 percent from 2008 and 18 percent from 2007; 8,801,968 trailers or containers, down 15.6 percent from 2008 and 17.9 percent from 2007, and total volume of an estimated 1.32 trillion ton-miles, down 16.4 percent from 2008 and 16.5 percent from 2007.


Source: AAR