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Rail traffic remains depressed despite some signs of positivity in the economy.  Carloads were down 17% year over year while intermodal traffic declined 16.5% year over year.  This data was essentially flat when compared to last week’s data.

This continues to be one of the more confounding pieces of data we see weekly as rails have been a leading indicator out of almost every recession the U.S. has ever been in.  Much like jobless claims, the data remains incredibly weak.   This data would certainly reflect the square root shaped recovery – a massive decline followed by a brief rise followed by a new (and lower) normal – not a great sign if you’re heavily invested in equities.  The AAR reports:

WASHINGTON, D.C., Oct. 1, 2009 — The Association of American Railroads today reported 271,659 carloads for the week ending Sept. 26, 2009, down 17.1 percent compared with the same week in 2008. The traffic numbers were affected by severe flooding in Tennessee and Georgia which halted freight shipments in those areas from Sept. 21-23. Flooding also impacted the western freight carriers who operate through Atlanta. At this time, freight rail operations have returned to normal. Regionally, carloadings were down 15.5 percent in the West and 19.3 percent in the East.

Intermodal traffic of 205,627 trailers or containers on U.S. railroads was down 16.5 percent from the same week last year. Container volume fell 11 percent and trailer volume dropped 37.2 percent.

All of the 19 carload freight commodity groups were down from last year with declines ranging from 6 percent for chemicals to 38.5 percent for metals and products.

For the first 38 weeks of 2009, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 10,104,171 carloads, down 18.2 percent from 2008; 7,141,006 trailers or containers, down 16.8 percent, and total volume of an estimated 1.08 trillion ton-miles, down 17.3 percent. Total volume on U.S. railroads for the week ending September 26 was estimated at 28.8 billion ton-miles, off 17.2 percent from the same week last year.

The weakness was broad across all industry groups:



Source: AAR, Railfax