Thursday, January 14, 2010

US Rail Freight Traffic at Lowest Levels in 21 Years

Total railroad carload traffic in 2009 dropped to the lowest level in more than 21 years, according to numbers released by the Association of American Railroads on Wednesday.

The AAR reported that 2009 carload traffic fell 16.1 percent compared to 2008 and down 18.2 percent compared to 2007. The numbers are the lowest since the AAR began tracking total carload traffic in 1988.

The report notes that while traffic for every commodity category was down in 2009 compared with both 2008 and 2007, 12 of the 19 major commodity categories tracked by the AAR saw higher carloads in December 2009 than in December 2008.

On the intermodal side, which includes both truck trailers and freight containers moved by rail, the AAR report found that 2009 traffic was down 14.1 percent compared to 2008 and down 17.7 percent compared to 2007. According to the AAR, 2009 marked the lowest intermodal rail numbers since 2002.

“Railroads are happy to have 2009 behind them,” said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John Gray. “Last year saw declines, most of them quite steep, in every major category of rail carload traffic as well as intermodal. However, we’re seeing signs that the economy is improving. We’re hopeful that 2010 will be a much better year for the economy and for railroads.”