Rail Traffic Ends 2011 Indicating Economic Expansion

Continuing the trend established in last month, the rail traffic upward trend continues in December 2011 with rail traffic growing 9.4% for intermodal and 7.3% for commodity carloads year-over-year.

This is a positive economic indicator for the coming months. Overall in 2011, total rail traffic (commodities plus intermodal) was up 3.6%.

In our analysis of November data, it was stated that a good portion of the improvement was attributable to coal – coal was 44.5% of the rail traffic in 2011.  In December, everything went up.  

The graphic below shows the total traffic on the USA rail. Comparing the above and below graphs.

Recapping 2011, according to the American Association of Railroads:

A good beginning, some uncertainness in the middle, and a good ending — that describes U.S.rail traffic in 2011. Total carloads for the year were 15.2 million, up 2.2% over 2010’s 14.8 million and up 9.7% over 2009’s 13.8 million. Total U.S. rail intermodal volume in 2011 was 11.9 million containers and trailers, up 5.4% over 2010’s 11.3 million units and up 20.4% over 2009’s 9.9 million units.

……..in 2011 U.S. railroads had recovered about 38% of the carload traffic they had lost in the recession from the 2006 peak, and intermodal volume had come about 84% of the way back. The charts below illustrate how intermodal traffic has recovered much more than carload traffic.

Most finished consumer goods which travel on rail move in intermodal units, containers and trailers, on rail cars. If there was only one pulse point to watch – it is this one. It shows positive year-over-year growth. A caveat here: some of the growth is due from taking traffic from trucks, so one would need to view intermodal rail with truck to get a complete picture.

As rail is the first reporter of December 2011 data, here is how November 2011 transport indicators compare:

All important rail trend lines show economic activity has grown in November and December. This data is indicating economic expansion.

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