Friday, January 06, 2012

AAR: Rail Traffic increased 7.3 percent YoY in December

by Bill McBride on 1/06/2012 05:19:00 PM

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) reports carload traffic in December increased 7.3 percent compared with the same month last year, and intermodal traffic (using intermodal or shipping containers) increased 9.4 percent compared with December 2010.

A good beginning, some uncertainness in the middle, and a good ending — that describes U.S. rail traffic in 2011. Total carloads for the year were 15.2 million, up 2.2% over 2010’s 14.8 million and up 9.7% over 2009’s 13.8 million. Total U.S. rail intermodal volume in 2011 was 11.9 million containers and trailers, up 5.4% over 2010’s 11.3 million units and up 20.4% over 2009’s 9.9 million units.
On a seasonally adjusted basis, carloads in December were up 1.8% from last month, and intermodal in December was up 0.4% from November.

Rail Traffic Click on graph for larger image.

This graph shows U.S. average weekly rail carloads (NSA).
U.S. railroads originated 1,134,580 carloads in December 2011, an average of 283,645 per week and up 7.3% over December 2010. That’s the biggest year-over-year monthly increase since January 2011, but the gain is somewhat overstated because December 2011 ended on December 31, 2011, while December 2010 ended on January 1, 2011. That means that the New Year’s holiday (a very low traffic day) is not included in December 2011 but is included in December 2010.
Rail carload traffic collapsed in November 2008, and now, 2 1/2 years into the recovery, carload traffic is still not half way back to the pre-recession levels.

The second graph is for intermodal traffic (using intermodal or shipping containers):

Rail TrafficGraphs reprinted with permission.

Intermodal traffic is close to the peak year in 2006.
U.S. rail intermodal originations totaled 873,390 containers and trailers in December 2011, an average of 218,348 per week — up 9.4% over December 2010 and the second-highest monthly intermodal average for any December in history (behind December 2006 — see chart ...).
Overall rail traffic was up in December.
All Current Transportation graphs