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Rail traffic continues to improve in the near-term, but long-term comps show a very meager recovery.  Total carloads were down 5.4% compared to the very weak 2008 period and down 13.3% compared to 2007.  Intermodal traffic declined 4.2% year over year and was down 13.6% compared to 2007.  Although the move higher in traffic is encouraging the year over year declines compared with 2007 & 2008 highlight just how weak the current recovery is.  The economy remains very fragile.

The AAR reports:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Dec. 10, 2009 – The Association of American Railroads today reported that freight rail traffic showed improvement in the post Thanksgiving holiday week ending Dec. 5, 2009. U.S. railroads reported originating 284,177 carloads, down 5.4 percent compared with the same week in 2008 and down 13.3 percent from the same week in 2007. 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 year comparisons for both 2008 and 2007.

In the Western U.S., carloads were down 6.2 percent compared with the same week last year, and 10.7 percent compared with 2007. In the East, carloads were down 4.1 percent compared with 2008, and 17.1 percent compared with the same week in 2007.

Intermodal traffic totaled 207,242 trailers and containers, down 4.2 percent from a year ago and 13.6 percent from 2007. Compared with the same week in 2008, container volume rose 2 percent and trailer volume dropped 25.8 percent. Compared with the same week in 2007, container volume fell 5.7 percent and trailer volume dropped 38 percent.

While 10 of the 19 carload freight commodity groups were down compared with the same week last year, increases were seen in nonmetallic minerals (25 percent), metals and products (17.1 percent), grain (14.1 percent), chemicals (13.9 percent), farm products not including grain (13.7 percent), motor vehicles and equipment (8.9 percent), grain mill products (8 percent), metallic ores (1.3 percent) and waste and scrap metal (.7 percent). Declines in commodity groups ranged from .6 percent for food and kindred products to 21 percent for crushed stone, sand and gravel.

Total volume on U.S. railroads for the week ending Dec. 5, 2009 was estimated at 31.8 billion ton-miles, down 4.8 percent compared with the same week last year and down 7.6 percent from 2007.


Source: AAR