Thursday, July 09, 2009

Traffic still follows the economy — down

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After a flurry of late-spring optimism, the national economy at midyear shows no strong signs of recovery—and, as the Association of American Railroads noted Thursday, freight traffic on U.S. railroads "continues to parallel the nation's overall economic condition."

In the holiday week ended July 4, rail carload traffic was down 15.6% from the corresponding week last year; intermodal volume was off 12.8%; and total volume, measured in ton-miles, was down 14.3%.

Carload volume was off 23.0% in the East and 11.1% in the West. Out of a total of 19 carload commodity groups, 18 were down in the most recent week; the declines ranged from 3.3% for coal to 72.4% for metallic ores.

Canadian railroads fared no better, with carload volume down 20.5% in the week ended July 4 and intermodal volume off 18.7%. In Mexico, carload traffic fell 40.2% and intermodal traffic was down 42.0%.

AAR noted that, effective with the week ended July 4, Canadian National now incorporates traffic of the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway (EJ&E). All CN 2008 and 2009 data has been restated on a pro-forma basis to include EJ&E traffic as if it was part of CN since Jan. 1, 2008. The former EJ&E traffic is now included in the Canadian total, not the U.S. totals.