Rail Week Ending 27 October 2012: Rail Without Coal Expands

November 1st, 2012
in econ_news, syndication

Econintersect: Week 43 of 2012 ending 27 October shows same week total rail traffic was below 2011 levels according to data released by the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

  • The carload portion of rail traffic showed same week traffic contracted 7.0% (versus last week's -4.4%).
  • Excluding coal and grain (which are not an economic indicator), rail carloads expanded at 2.5% (last week +3.6%) same week year-over-year.
  • Intermodal same week traffic grew 3.9% (versus last week's +3.5%)
  • Total same week traffic rail traffic contracted 2.9% (versus last week's -2.7%)

Regardless what was argued in the Presidental debates, USA coal production is down 11.1% same week year-over-year (see below).

Follow up:

“Nine of the 20 carload commodity groups posted increases compared with the same week in 2011, with farm products excluding grain, up 72 percent; petroleum products, up 52.7 percent, and lumber and wood products, up 17.8 percent. The groups showing a decrease in weekly traffic included iron and steel scrap, down 32.8 percent; grain, down 19 percent, coal, down 15.2 percent.

A good background article on the switch of the power generating plants from coal to natural gas was published 30May2012 in the NYT. The week before GEI News had reported on the decline in coal usage over the past year.

The majority of the reason for rail year-to-date contraction is coal and grain movements - which would only effect the profitability of railroads, and not an economic indicator as coal is an alternative fuel to oil and natural gas.


This Week
Carloads Intermodal Total
This week Year-over-Year -7.0% 3.9% -6.4%
This week without coal and grain
Year Cumulative to Date -2.9% 3.7% -2.0%


Current Rail Chart


Total (cumulative) year-to-date traffic is contracting year-over-year.

From EIA.gov:

For the week ended October 27, 2012:

  • U.S. coal production totaled approximately 19.6 million short tons (mmst)
  • This production estimate is 2.1 percent higher than last week's estimate and 11.2 percent lower than the production estimate in the comparable week in 2011
  • Coal production east of the Mississippi River totaled 8.3 mmst
  • Coal production west of the Mississippi River totaled 11.3 mmst
  • U.S. year-to-date coal production totaled 841.8 mmst, 6.1 percent lower than the comparable year-to-date coal production in 2011
  • As of the week ending September 15, 2012, all of 2011 production has been revised to match the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) final 2011 production and second quarter 2012 production has been revised to match MSHA production. These changes are present in the Revisions/Archives section, and are also reflected in the "Current Weekly Estimates" and "Current Monthly Estimates" tables in the year-to-date and 52 weeks ended totals. These changes are not reflected in the two Original Estimates tables.


    Steven Hansen

    Source: AAR

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