Rail Week Ending 01 February 2014: Another Bad Week

February 7th, 2014
in econ_news, syndication

Econintersect: Week 5 of 2014 shows same week total rail traffic (from same week one year ago) contracted according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR) traffic data. The rolling averages are mixed (and generally decelerating), but show growth.


Follow up:

The weekly data is fairly noisy, and the best way to view it is to look at the rolling averages:

Percent current rolling average  is larger than the rolling average of one year ago Current rate of growth accelerating or decelerating Current rolling average accelerating or decelerating compared to the rolling average one year ago
4 week rolling average 0.5% accelerating decelerating
13 week rolling average 2.7% decelerating decelerating
52 week rolling average 2.2% decelerating flat

A summary of the data from the AAR:

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported increased total U.S. rail traffic for January 2014, with intermodal and carload volume increasing overall compared with January 2013. Intermodal traffic in January 2014 totaled 1,183,285 containers and trailers, up 1.3 percent (14,682 units) compared with January 2013. The weekly average of 236,657 intermodal units in January is the highest weekly average for any January on record. U.S. carload traffic totaled 1,345,184 carloads in January 2014, up 0.4 percent (5,183 carloads) over January 2013.

Seven of the 20 commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw year-over-year carload increases in January over the same month last year. Commodities with the biggest carload increases last month included grain, up 13.2 percent or 12,141 carloads, and petroleum and petroleum products, up 10.4 percent or 6,777 carloads. Crude oil accounts for approximately half of this commodity category. Commodity categories with carload declines last month included metallic ores, down 23.5 percent or 7,389 carloads from January 2013, and motor vehicles and parts, down 6.1 percent or 4,158 carloads. Coal carloads were down 0.5 percent, or 2,901 carloads, in January 2014 from January 2013. Excluding coal, carloads were up 1 percent (8,084 carloads) in January 2014.

AAR today also reported decreased rail traffic for the week ending February 1, 2014. U.S. railroads originated 270,903 carloads last week, down 1.5 percent compared with the same week last year, while intermodal volume for the week totaled 247,109 units, down 0.8 percent compared with the same week last year. Total U.S. rail traffic for the week was 518,012 carloads and intermodal units, down 1.2 percent compared with the same week last year.

Two of the 10 carload commodity groups tracked on a weekly basis posted increases compared with the same week in 2013, including: grain, with 20,745 carloads, up 22.5 percent, and petroleum and petroleum products, with 13,255 carloads, up 0.8 percent. The groups showing a decrease in weekly traffic were led by nonmetallic minerals and products, with 26,785 carloads, down 8.8 percent.

For the first five weeks of 2014, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 1,345,184 carloads, up 0.4 percent from the same point last year, and 1,183,285 intermodal units, up 1.3 percent from last year. Total U.S. traffic for the first five weeks of 2014 was 2,528,469 carloads and intermodal units, up 0.8 percent from last year.

USA coal production is down 0.4% same week year-over-year - and coal accounts for almost half of carloads.

Here is a look at the weekly data comparing it to the same week one year ago, backing out economically less intuitive coal and grain, and comparing growth year-to-date.

This Week
Carloads Intermodal Total
This week Year-over-Year -1.5% -0.8% -1.2%
Ignoring coal and grain -4.0%
Year Cumulative to Date 0.4% 1.3% 0.8%


[click on graph below to enlarge]


Current Rail Chart


/images/z rail1.png

From EIA.gov:

For the week ended February 01, 2014:

  • U.S. coal production totaled approximately 18.8 million short tons (mmst)
  • This production estimate is 2.0% lower than last week's estimate and 0.4% lower than the production estimate in the comparable week in 2013
  • Coal production east of the Mississippi River totaled 7.7 mmst
  • Coal production west of the Mississippi River totaled 11.1 mmst
  • U.S. year-to-date coal production totaled 85.9 mmst, 2.4% lower than the comparable year-to-date coal production in 2013
  • Source:

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