Friday, April 06, 2012

AAR: Rail Traffic "mixed" in March

by Bill McBride on 4/06/2012 04:01:00 PM

From the Association of American Railroads (AAR): AAR Reports Mixed Rail Traffic for March

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported reported U.S. rail carloads originated in March 2012 totaled 1,123,298, down 69,190 carloads or 5.8 percent, compared with March 2011. Intermodal volume in March 2012 was 928,350 containers and trailers, up 31,348 units or 3.5 percent compared with March 2011.
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Commodities with carload declines in March were led by coal, down 84,854 carloads or 15.8 percent from March 2011. Other commodities with declines included grain, down 9,088 carloads or 9.7 percent; chemicals, down 4,278 carloads or 3.4 percent; nonmetallic minerals, down 1,863 carloads or 9.7 percent; and farm products excluding grain, down 479 carloads or 13.3 percent. Carloads excluding coal and grain were up 4.4 percent or 24,752 carloads in March 2012 over March 2011.
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“There is no denying that coal is a crucial commodity for railroads, and there’s also no denying that recent declines in coal traffic are presenting significant challenges to railroads right now,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. “That said, it’s encouraging that many commodities that are better indicators of the state of the economy than coal is — things like motor vehicles, lumber and wood products, and crushed stone — saw higher rail carloadings in March.”
Rail Traffic Click on graph for larger image.

This graph shows U.S. average weekly rail carloads (NSA).
U.S. railroads originated 1,123,298 total carloads in March 2012, down 5.8% (69,190 carloads) from the same period in 2011. Total carloads averaged 280,825 per week in March 2012, down from 298,122 in March 2011. Coal and, to a lesser extent, grain were the main reasons for the decline. Excluding coal and grain, U.S. rail carloads were up 4.4% (24,752 carloads) in March 2012 over March 2011, though the 4.4% gain is the smallest gain for this category of rail traffic in six months
According to the AAR, the decline in coal is because coal is being used less for electricity generation.

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

Rail TrafficGraphs reprinted with permission.

Intermodal traffic is now above the peak year in 2006.
Intermodal continued to impress in March. U.S. railroads originated 928,350 containers and trailers in March 2012, up 3.5% (31,348 units) over March 2011 and the 28th straight year-over-year monthly increase. Average weekly U.S. intermodal loadings in March 2012 were the highest of any March in history.
All Current Transportation graphs

Earlier Employment posts:
March Employment Report: 120,000 Jobs, 8.2% Unemployment Rate
Employment Summary and Discussion
Construction Employment, Duration of Unemployment, Unemployment by Education and Diffusion Indexes
All Employment Graphs

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