The Association of American Railroads late Thursday reported that, while U.S. freight rail carloads of 1,116,182 for August were 16.4% lower compared with the same month last year, the percentage decline for the month was the lowest since February.
AAR’s monthly Rail Time Indicators Report, which consists of traffic data framed with other key economic indicators to show how freight rail ties into the broader U.S. economy, shows that carload data for certain commodity groups had notable traffic changes in August. Chemicals, which are used as a raw material in many types of manufacturing, were up 14% at 134,601 carloads, compared to their lowest point in March 2009. “This increase in carloads of chemicals is in line with the August Purchasing Managers Index, up 4% from July 2009," said AAR. The autos and autoparts commodity group, at 44,272 carloads, grew 40% in August from July 2009, “a significant monthly boost, likely the result of the federal ‘Cash for Clunkers’ program.”
More consumer-driven intermodal traffic was down 16.7% compared with August 2008. However, the average weekly intermodal count for trailers was 196,066 units, the highest since January 2009.
“August was another month where we are seeing traffic data moving in the right direction, but we are still in a wait-and-see mode,” said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John Gray. “Railroads are beginning to bring cars out of storage, a promising sign there is growing demand to move more things by rail. However, to date, the improvements remain too small to judge whether they are the result of seasonal factors or indicators of an emerging recovery.”