Econintersect: Week 37 of 2014 shows same week total rail traffic (from same week one year ago) grew according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR) traffic data. Rail growth this week continues to demonstrate an improving economy - even though the rate of growth compared to the rolling averages one year ago continues to slow.
This analysis is looking for clues in the rail data to show the direction of economic activity - and is not necessarily looking for clues of profitability of the railroads. The weekly data is fairly noisy, and the best way to view it is to look at the rolling averages which are continuing to show a strong growth cycle albeit the rate of growth is slowing:
Percent current rolling average is larger than the rolling average of one year ago
Current quantities accelerating or decelerating
Current rolling average accelerating or decelerating compared to the rolling average one year ago
4 week rolling average
13 week rolling average
52 week rolling average
A summary of the data from the AAR:
The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported increased U.S. rail traffic for the week ending Sept. 13, 2014 with 300,388 total carloads, up 1.4 percent compared with the same week last year. Total U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 279,052 units, up 5 percent compared with the same week last year. Total combined U.S. weekly rail traffic was 579,440 carloads and intermodal units, up 3.1 percent compared with the same week last year.
Six of 10 of the carload commodity groups posted increases compared with the same week in 2013, including petroleum and petroleum products with 16,902 carloads, up 29.9 percent; nonmetallic minerals with 40,935 carloads, up 9.7 percent; and metallic ores and metals with 28,394 carloads, up 6.3 percent. The week’s intermodal volume, with 279,052 units, was a record high for the railroad industry.
For the first 37 weeks of 2014, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 10,718,782 carloads, up 3.5 percent compared with the same point last year, and 9,522,482 intermodal units, up 5.6 percent from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 37 weeks of 2014 was 20,241,264 carloads and intermodal units, up 4.5 percent from last year.
Coal is over 1/3 of the total railcar count, and this week is 3.0% lower than the production estimate in the comparable week in 2013. The table below removes coal and grain from the changes in the railcar counts as neither of these commodities is economically intuitive.
This week Year-over-Year
Ignoring coal and grain
Year Cumulative to Date
[click on graph below to enlarge]
/images/z rail1.png From EIA.gov: For the week ended September 13, 2014:
Current Rail Chart
For the week ended September 13, 2014: