Weekly US Railroad Carloadings Down 14.8% For Cumulative Decline Of 18.0%

Tyler Durden's picture

One of our favorite economic data series, the AAR weekly traffic report, was released today, and even as the data moves ever further from the Lehman anniversary when the economy presumably went into a standstill, the October 24th data still demonstrates a healthy -14.8 weekly YoY drop, and a little changed -18% YTD drop compared to the prior week's -18.2%. Interestingly, the AAR is commencing to show not just year over year data, but year over two years (YoTW?) going forward, ala what CNBC is trying to do to deemphasize the drop off in their audiences. Although while CNBC's 2008 spike was beneficial, the AAR will effectively be focusing on the major drop from an "old normal" economy. This kind of unbiased objectivity and benchmarking should raise red flags all around.

Here is the official press release from the AAR:

AAR Reports Railroads Continue to Post Weak Carload, Intermodal Numbers
Expanded Report Includes Comparison Week for 2007 and 2008

WASHINGTON, D.C., Oct. 29, 2009 — The
Association of American Railroads today reported that rail traffic
remains down year over year for the week ended Oct. 24, 2009. U.S
railroads reported originating 276,357 carloads, down 14.8 percent
compared with the same week in 2008 and 17.3 percent from 2007. It was
around this time last year notable declines in rail carloads and rail
intermodal traffic showed the first significant signs of the nation’s
economic downturn. Therefore, the AAR will be reporting 2009 weekly
rail traffic with year over comparisons for both 2008 and 2007 going

In the West, carloads were down 14.8 percent compared with the
same week last year, and 15.8 percent compared with 2007. In the East,
carloads were down 14.8 compared with 2008, and 19.4 percent compared
with the same week in 2007.

Intermodal traffic totaled 207,401 trailers or containers, down
10.1 percent from a year ago and 14.5 percent from 2007. Compared with
the same week last year, container volume fell 3.6 percent and trailer
volume dropped 34.7 percent. Compared with the same week in 2007,
container volume fell 7.4 percent and trailer volume dropped 40.1

While 17 of the 19 carload freight commodity groups were down
from the same week last year, grain mill products were up 9.6 percent
and grain was up 6.2 percent compared with the same week in 2008.
Declines in commodity groups ranged from 1.9 percent for chemicals to
66.1 percent for metallic ores.

Total volume on U.S. railroads for the week ending October 24,
2009 was estimated at 31.1 billion ton-miles, down 13.4 percent
compared with the same week last year and 11.1 percent from 2007.

For the first 42 weeks of 2009, U.S. railroads reported
cumulative volume of 11,207,180 carloads, down 18 percent from 2008 and
18.3 percent from 2007; 7,969,780 trailers or containers, down 16.4
percent from 2008 and 18.3 percent from 2007, and total volume of an
estimated 1.2 trillion ton-miles, down 17.1 percent from 2008 and 15
percent from 2007.

Canadian railroads reported volume of 71,097 cars for the week,
down 9.9 percent from last year, and 44,849 trailers or containers,
down 13 percent from 2008. For the first 42 weeks of 2009, Canadian
railroads reported cumulative volume of 2,585,690 carloads, down 21.4
percent from last year, and 1,720,890 trailers or containers, down 15.9

Mexican railroads reported originated volume of 12,447 cars,
down 2 percent from the same week last year, and 7,412 trailers or
containers, down 6.5 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads
for the first 42 weeks of 2009 was reported as 481,056 carloads, down
12.6 percent from last year; and 225,008 trailers or containers, down
17.5 percent.

Combined North American rail volume for the first 42 weeks of
2009 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled
14,273,926 carloads, down 18.4 percent from last year, and 9,915,678
trailers and containers, down 16.3 percent from last year.



Attached also is the useful monthly real time indicators report, which provides a handy summary of the relevant monthly themes and trends in the railroad business. In a nutshell - if Burlington Northern is claiming the coast is clear, they are full of it.


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
hardball22's picture

Sweet Jesus.  Look at the DJ Transportation index.  It's one of the best leading indicators out there and it's lagged the DJIA severely through this.  I think the government forgot to get its fingers in this nook of the economy...

O, wait, Morgan Stanley put UNP on its ST Tactical Buy list yesterday.  Have no fear, "cargo through the 3q came in at the bottom of our expected range... we view shares as really undervalued... only up to go."

Cistercian's picture

 This is a concrete indicator of economic activity, and it certainly does not say the recession/depression is over, does it?


Crab Cake's picture


Here in Texas, right before a big nasty Fall thunderstorm rolls in it will get real warm and windy, the clouds will expand into the heavens, hot and cold pushing against one another elementally, and then the storm breaks. 

Anonymous's picture

Double, double rails in trouble;
Fire burn, and stocks bubble.

Anonymous's picture

Here where I am, we get maybe one Amtrack Texas Eagle, One slow train, one coal train and a Z train along with a proper freight train each day.

Back in 2003, the mainline shook with traffic 24-7, sometimes trains side by side overtaking each other while moving so that they dont hold the tracks up sitting still.

I expect no improvement. Too damn quiet around here these days. Same with trucking.

Anonymous's picture

Recession over? No... anybody who says that lies. It is not.

Anonymous's picture

What matters is not what happened relative to a year ago. What mattes is what has happened relative to recently. Companies do not manage to what happened one year, two years, five years, ten years ago. They manage to what they believe is going to happen, which they derive primarily from what has most recently happened (adjusted for seasonality and productive capacity). Comparing whatever data stream to one year ago is interesting but is nonetheless a common logical fallacy on Wall Street.

Whatta's picture

OK, YoY it does sound pretty dismal, but I pointed this out last month as well...but the shorter term trend has been upwards. The lows in car loading numbers were set back around May (depending on which number you look at). Since then the numbers have been trending positive. May total carloadings was around 430,000, it is currently up to 475,000.


I have two brothers in law that work for UP. Both of them concur that their activity has been picking up. One says they are increasing about 1000 cars a work (this was two weeks ago when I talked to him).


I agree the economy isn't revved and roaring, but to just look at YoY numbers isn't a totally accurate snapshot either.

Anonymous's picture

Anyone have good sources for Air Freight and Trucking?


Anonymous's picture

Take a look at the truck stops and terminals.

Dead Drivers walking. Or eating bean soup and bread waiting for a load that might not come in for while.

No urgency at all. Except to the money.

Anonymous's picture

Rail transport, especially electrified rail, is much more efficient, and less damaging to the environment, than transportation by car or truck. It can help to dramatically reduce energy use and carbon emission. Even better, it's a win/win scenario for the economy, the environment and the fight against global warming.