Freight rail traffic is off to a slow start in 2010, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported on Jan. 14, with U.S. railroads originating 236,796 carloads for the week ending Jan. 9, 2010, down not only 12.4 percent compared with the same week in 2009 but also 28 percent from the same week in 2008.
In the western United States, carloads were down 12.7 percent compared with the same week last year and 20.3 percent compared with 2008. In the East, carloads were down 12 percent compared with 2009 and 11.9 percent compared with the same week in 2008.
Intermodal traffic totaled 196,788 trailers and containers, down just 3.6 percent from a year ago, but down 17.4 percent from 2008. Compared with the same week in 2009, container volume fell 2.3 percent and trailer volume dropped 9.8 percent. Compared with the same week in 2008, container volume fell 11.9 percent and trailer volume dropped 38.2 percent.
Despite overall lower loadings, 11 of the 19 carload freight commodity groups were up in comparison with the same week last year, and six of those posted double digit increases: farm products other than grain (up 13.9 percent), metallic ores (up 94 percent), nonmetallic minerals (up 52.3 percent), chemicals (up 14.6 percent), motor vehicles and equipment (up 71.6 percent), and waste and scrap materials (up 10.5 percent). Declines in commodity groups ranged from 36.6 percent for crushed sand, stone and gravel to 0.1 percent for the catch-all category labeled "all other carloads."
Total volume on U.S. railroads for the week ending Jan. 9, 2009, was estimated at 25.5 billion ton-miles, down 12.4 percent compared with the same week last year and down 25.9 percent from 2008.
Traffic was up on Canadian and Mexican railroads., however, with the former reporting a weekly and cumulative volume of 67,333 cars for the first week of the year, up 20.4 percent from last year, and 43,033 trailers or containers, up 0.2 percent from 2009. Mexican railroads reported a weekly and cumulative volume of 12,123 cars for the first week of the year, up 32.1 percent from the same week last year, and 5,722 trailers or containers, up 44.4 percent.
For further details, consult the AAR's weekly rail traffic charts.