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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Short-line carloads tumble 25 percent in '09, RMI says


To say short lines had a tough 2009 is an understatement. Their carloads dropped 25 percent vs. 2008’s total, with volume falling by double digits in 13 of 14 commodities, according to RMI’s “RailConnect Index of Short Line Traffic” for the 52-week period ending Jan. 2.

Based on carloads handled by 336 U.S. and Canadian regionals and short lines, 2009 volume totaled 4.4 million units vs. 2008’s 5.8 million units. The biggest year-over-year decline was registered by intermodal traffic, which plummeted 47.3 percent to 326,218 units. The sole single-digit drop: farm and food product carloads (excluding grain), which decreased 9.6 percent to 245,629 units.

Other large year-over-year declines were tallied in “all other traffic” (down 46.4 percent to 75,223 units), metals and products (down 44.7 percent to 288,231 units), motor vehicles and equipment (down 44.5 percent to 52,358 units), and petroleum and coke (down 36.9 percent to 180,596 units).

Meanwhile, ores traffic plummeted 28 percent to 95,722 units; lumber and forest products traffic tumbled 27.4 percent to 178,999 units; waste and scrap metals traffic decreased 24.7 percent to 225,353 units; paper products traffic dipped 23 percent to 288,628 units; coal traffic declined 21.1 percent to 599,703 units; stone, clay and aggregates traffic fell 17.1 percent to 490,452 units; chemicals traffic decreased 12.3 percent to 735,047 units; and grain traffic dropped 10 percent to 601,088 units.