Wednesday, January 13, 2010

AAR: 2009 carload traffic lowest since 1988

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The Association of American Railroads Wednesday said 2009 total carload traffic on U.S. railroads notched the lowest levels since at least 1988, when the AAR’s data series began. AAR’s January Rail Time Indicators report notes 2009 carload traffic was down 16.1% compared with 2008, and down 18.2% when compared with 2007.


AAR noted December carloads offered more mixed news. Though rail carloads were down 4.1% compared with December of 2008 and down 17.6% compared with December 2007, those declines were attributed mainly to declines in coal carloadings. Had coal been excluded, rail carloads would have been 6.9% higher in December 2009 than in December 2008.  Moreover, 12 of the 19 major commodity categories tracked by the AAR saw higher carloads in December 2009 than in December 2008.
U.S. rail intermodal traffic was down 14.1% compared with 2008, and down 17.7% compared to 2007. Last year saw the lowest intermodal traffic levels since 2002.

“Railroads are happy to have 2009 behind them,” said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John Gray. “Last year saw declines, most of them quite steep, in every major category of rail carload traffic as well as intermodal. However, we’re seeing signs that the economy is improving. We’re hopeful that 2010 will be a much better year for the economy and for railroads.”

The Rail Time Indicators report, available at, comprises monthly rail traffic data framed with other key economic indicators to show how freight rail ties into the broader U.S. economy. Both the monthly Rail Time Indicators report and a video summary are available on the AAR web site.

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