US Rail Freight continues to feel the brunt of the economic slowdown in 2009 as statistics released today by the Association of American Railroads (AAR) show.

Carload and commodity freight dropped considerably and only carload coal freight dropped at less than double digit pace. Total volume was estimated at 28.3 billion ton-miles, off 16.8% from 2008.

For the first two weeks of 2009, US railroads reported cumulative volume of 538,534 carloads, down 17.4% from 2008; 403,220 trailers or containers, down 14%; and total volume of an estimated 57.1 billion ton-miles, down 16.5%.

Carload freight totalled 267,063 cars, down 17.9% from 2008, with loadings down 13.2% in the West and 24.4% in the East. Intermodal volume of 199,117 trailers or containers was off 13.7% from last year, with container volume falling 10.2% and trailer volume dipping 27%.

The combined volume of North American rail for the two weeks of 2009 on 14 reporting US, Canadian and Mexican railroads totalled 673,174 carloads, down 18.9% from last year, and 496,977 trailers and containers, down 14.3% from last year.

Railroads reporting to AAR account for 89% of US carload freight and 98% of rail intermodal volume. When the US operations of Canadian railroads are included, the figures increase to 96% and 100%. The Canadian railroads reporting to the AAR account for 91% of Canadian rail traffic.

Railroads provide more than 40% of US intercity freight transportation, more than any other mode, which highlights the importance of such statistics as a valuable economic indicator.

By Daniel Garrun.