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Rail News Home Rail Industry Trends

January 2010

Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Industry Trends from Progressive Railroading January 2010


Freight traffic on uptick

As of early December, spot market demand indicators were slightly above normal seasonal trend lines for both rail and truckload, according to Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc.'s monthly "Domestic Truck, Intermodal and Rail Trends" report issued on Dec. 15. Lean inventories prompted more expedited shipping activity, the firm determined. During November's first three weeks, rail and intermodal demand reached their highest levels in 2009. Agricultural volumes increased as the corn/wheat/soybean harvest was projected to rise 5 percent compared with 2008's harvest, according to the report. In addition, chemical volumes — which historically have been a leading economic indicator — began to improve. However, coal remained a "laggard" as stockpiles posed a headwind to increased demand, the report states. Meanwhile, intermodal volume declined 7 percent year over year in November vs. 11 percent in October.

TSI tumbles to eight-year low

In October, the Transportation Services Index (TSI) fell 0.9 percent from September's level to 98.0 — the lowest October index since 2001, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS). A measure of the month-to-month changes in freight shipped by rail, truck, inland waterways, pipelines and air, the TSI also declined 8.7 percent compared with October 2008's index. The Freight TSI in October decreased 1.2 percent from September level's level to 94.5, the lowest October index since 1996 and second-straight month-over-month decline. The Freight TSI also fell 10.5 percent from October 2008's level — the largest October-to-October drop in the 20 years BTS has calculated the TSI. October's Passenger TSI declined 0.1 percent from September's level to 110.3 and decreased 3.1 percent on a year-over-year basis.

NAFTA trade slows

The value of freight moved by rail, truck and pipeline between the United States and Canada and Mexico in September totaled $57.3 billion, down 20.2 percent compared with September 2008's total value, according to the BTS. Railed export value fell 28.3 percent to

$4.4 billion and railed import value dropped 22.9 percent to $7.3 billion. Trucked export and import values declined 12.9 percent to $24.1 billion, and 16.2 percent to $23.9 billion, respectively. The value of export freight railed between the United States and Canada plummeted 30.8 percent to $2.7 billion while imported freight value plunged 30.2 percent to $5.4 billion. The value of export freight railed between the United States and Mexico fell 24.6 percent to $1.8 billion while imported freight value declined 2.5 percent to $1.9 billion.


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