Rail traffic continues to improve dramatically on a year over year basis. Comps with 2008 remain very easy, but the trend in economic activity is clear nonetheless. Things are much better than they were at this time last year. Compared to 2007 the data remains depressed, however, we are seeing improvement in these figures as well. The AAR reports:
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Dec. 30, 2009 – Intermodal volume was up but both carload freight and total volume as measured in ton-miles slipped from year-ago levels during the week ended December 26, the Association of American Railroads reported today.
The AAR also reported that volume during the most recent week remained sharply below levels reported during the comparable 2007 week. 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. Comparison weeks from all three years included the Christmas holiday.
Intermodal traffic totaled 141,699 trailers and containers, up 14.2 percent from a year ago but down 10.7 percent from 2007. Compared with the same week in 2008, container volume rose 21.6 percent and trailer volume dropped 14.5 percent. Compared with the same week in 2007, container volume fell 4.5 percent and trailer volume dropped 34.4 percent.
Carload freight totaled 197,754 cars, down 1.1 percent from 2008 and 22.3 percent from 2007. In the Eastern U.S., carloads were up 1.3 percent compared with the same week last year, but off 25.2 percent compared with 2007. In the West, carloads were down 2.3 percent compared with 2008, and 20.7 percent compared with the same week in 2007.
Carload volume was down largely because of a more-than 21,000 carload (19.1 percent) drop in coal loadings. Seventeen of the other 18 carload freight commodity groups were up compared with the same week last year, with fourteen reporting double digit increases, including motor vehicles (52.1 percent); lumber and wood products (44.8 percent); grain (31.1 percent); metals (31.7 percent) and chemicals (18.7 percent).
Total volume was estimated at 22.1 billion ton-miles, down 0.9 percent from the comparable 2008 week, and down 17.5 percent from the comparable 2007 week.
For the first 51 weeks of 2009, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 13,585,290 carloads, down 16.3 percent from 2008 and 18.2 percent from 2007; 9,731,474 trailers or containers, down 14.3 percent from 2008 and 17.8 percent from 2007, and total volume of an estimated 1.47 trillion ton-miles, down 15.4 percent from 2008 and 16.3 percent from 2007.
Mr. Roche is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Discipline Funds.Discipline Funds is a low fee financial advisory firm with a focus on helping people be more disciplined with their finances.
He is also the author of Pragmatic Capitalism: What Every Investor Needs to Understand About Money and Finance, Understanding the Modern Monetary System and Understanding Modern Portfolio Construction.