Rail Traffic Slows, Remains Solid Year-to-Date

Weekly rail traffic trends showed some signs of slowing this week, but remain solid when taken in larger context.  This week’s intermodal reading of 0.7% was the weakest reading since January and brought the 12 week moving average down to 5.6%.  That’s down from the recent high of 6.75%.  All in all, this appears consistent with an economy that is still growing.

Here’s more via AAR:

“AAR reported an increase in traffic for the week ending March 16, 2013, with total U.S. weekly carloads of 280,624 carloads, up 0.5 percent compared with the same week last year. Intermodal volume for the week totaled 228,806 units, up 0.7 percent compared with the same week last year. Total U.S. traffic for the week was 509,430 carloads and intermodal units, up 0.6 percent compared with the same week last year.

Five of the 10 carload commodity groups posted increases compared with the same week in 2012, including petroleum products, up 58.3 percent, and motor vehicles and parts, up 15.6 percent. Commodities showing a decrease were led by grain, down 19.2 percent.

For the first eleven weeks of 2013, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 3,010,769 carloads, down 3.3 percent from the same point last year, and 2,615,688 intermodal units, up 6.6 percent from last year. Total U.S. traffic for the first eleven weeks of 2013 was 5,626,457 carloads and intermodal units, up 1.1 percent from last year.”

Chart via Orcam Research:


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Cullen Roche

Mr. Roche is the Founder of Orcam Financial Group, LLC. Orcam is a financial services firm offering research, private advisory, institutional consulting and educational services.

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  • John A

    It all has to do with the timing of the Chinese New Year, this year and last.

  • nick

    Cullen any chance of seeing this chart beginning in 2006? Thanks

  • http://thebuttonwoodtree.wordpress.com Romeo Fayette

    At +1.1% combine traffic volume ytd, I actually think 2013’s off to a slow start. There’s the y/y calendar effect fm New Year’s this year, but GDP doesn’t really adjust for that either. We know inventory drawdowns have been a 1q theme, so hopefully that trend reverses here soon, because the perception/reality gap is rather wide right now.

  • inDC

    “including petroleum products, up 58.3 percent”

    With the skew caused by the increased petroleum shipments, as well as increased traffic pushed to rail from trucking because fuel costs are at a YoY high right now, I have no faith in this indicator as a reflection of overall economic health