Rail Traffic Improves In February 2011 – But Less Good

Econintersect uses transport indicators as one of the primary measures of economic activity.  Weekly, we publish the press releases from Railfax on our news blog (news articles here).

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) February 2011 data shows a 4.2% improvement YoY – down from the 8% January 2011 YoY improvement (analysis here).    Railfax, which reports on weekly cycles (not monthly) says the 4 week moving average is 6.8%.  But the Railfax number includes intermodal traffic, while the headline AAR number does not.

Both sources are implying that rail traffic data for February is less good – but still up YoY.

According to AAR:

U.S. freight railroads originated 1,135,396 carloads in February 2011, an average of 283,849 per week (see chart below left). That’s up 4.2% (46,054 carloads) over February 2010 and up 2.7% (29,400 carloads) over February 2009.

Intermodal is container and trucks on special rail cars.  This is tracked separately by the AAR and is up over 10% YoY.  Deep in their data they have a graphic which appears to support the numbers from Railfax of 6.8% total traffic increase YoY.

A reminder of the breakdown of rail shipments:

The significant YoY changes were agricultural products which were off 2.9% YoY, while ores and motor vehicles were up 14% and 11.2% respectively.

Overall, rail counts are in a one month YoY improvement downtrend  For Econintersect, the next few months data will be compared against the strong 2010 data – and a clear understanding of how much improvement YoY we will see in 2011.