Rail Week Ending 27 December 2014: End of Strong Growth Year for Rail

January 2nd, 2015
in econ_news, syndication

Econintersect: Week 52 of 2014 shows same week total rail traffic (from same week one year ago) improved according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR) traffic data. The rate of growth continues to be strong.

Follow up:

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 generally are in a general growth cycle.

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 7.3% decelerating (normal for this holiday period) accelerating
13 week rolling average 4.6% decelerating (normal for this holiday period) accelerating
52 week rolling average 4.5% accelerating unchanged

A summary of the data from the AAR:

Today, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported increased U.S. rail traffic for the week ending Dec. 27, 2014, with 252,100 total carloads, up 9.2 percent compared with the same week in 2013. Total U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 181,238 units, up 5.4 percent compared with the same week last year. Total combined U.S. weekly rail traffic was 433,338 carloads and intermodal units, up 7.6 percent compared with the same week last year.

Nine of the 10 carload commodity groups posted increases compared with the same week in 2013, led by motor vehicles and parts with 11,738 carloads, up 41.6 percent; nonmetallic minerals with 24,182 carloads, up 26.3 percent; and coal with 102,804 carloads, up 9.9 percent. The lone commodity group that posted a decrease compared with the same week in 2013 was forest products with 9,598 carloads, down 2.5 percent.

For the full 52 weeks of 2014, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 15,176,484 carloads, up 3.9 percent compared with the same point last year, and 13,496,822 intermodal units, up 5.2 percent from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the 52 weeks of 2014 was 28,673,306 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 6.8% higher than the production estimate in the comparable week in 2013. The middle row in the table below removes coal and grain from the changes in the railcar counts as neither of these commodities is economically intuitive.

This Week
Carloads Intermodal Total
This week Year-over-Year 9.2% 5.4% 7.6%
Ignoring coal and grain 9.8%
Year Cumulative to Date 3.9% 5.2% 4.5%


[click on graph below to enlarge]

Current Rail Chart


/images/z rail1.png

From EIA.gov:

For the week ended December 20, 2014:

  • Estimated U.S. coal production totaled approximately 19.8 million short tons (mmst)
  • This production estimate is 0.2% lower than last week's estimate and 6.8% higher than the production estimate in the comparable week in 2013
  • Coal production east of the Mississippi River totaled 8.1 mmst
  • Coal production west of the Mississippi River totaled 11.6 mmst
  • U.S. year-to-date coal production totaled 964.4 mmst, 0.7% higher than the comparable year-to-date coal production in 2013








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