Railroads: Traffic Up 3.4% in March 2011

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) March 2011 data shows a 3.4% improvement YoY – down from the 4.2% for February 2011 YoY improvement (analysis here).    Railfax, which reports on weekly cycles (not monthly) says the 4 week moving average is 6.0% using a 02 April 2011 cutoff.  But the Railfax number includes intermodal traffic, while the headline AAR number does not.

According to AAR:

U.S. freight railroads originated an average of 298,711 carloads per week in March 2011, for a total of 1,493,553 carloads — up 3.4% over March 2010 and 11.2% over March 2009. March
2011’s percentage increase is the lowest of any month since rail traffic began its recovery in early 2010, but part of that is because of more difficult comparisons (i.e., year-ago traffic no longer as bleak as it had been). March 2010 includes the Good Friday holiday; March 2011 does not.

Intermodal is container and trucks on special rail cars.  This is tracked separately by the AAR and is up over 8.7% in 1Q2011.  Deep in their data they have a graphic which appears to support the numbers from Railfax of 8.7% total traffic increase YoY.

A reminder of the breakdown of rail shipments:

For the 1Q2011, the major rail uses that are down is grains (down 8.6%), pulp wood and wood chips (down 7.1%), and scrap paper, construction debris, ashes (down 10.8%).

Econintersect will continue to compare the next few months of data against the strong 2010 data – and a clear understanding of how much improvement YoY we will see in 2011 should emerge.

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