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Since demand for rail service arises as a result of demand elsewhere in the economy for the products that railroads haul, rail traffic is a useful gauge of broader economic activity, both for specific industries and for the economy as a whole. A sample of current weekly, monthly and annual information on freight rail traffic are in the interactive charts below. More detailed data is contained in a variety of AAR statistical products, which are free for AAR members and available for purchase by non-AAR members through the online catalog. Questions regarding AAR statistics should be directed to AAR's Policy and Economics Department.
Each week, the major North American railroads report their traffic for the previous week to AAR. This data is published in AAR's
Weekly Railroad Traffic report each Wednesday. Carload traffic is classified into 20 major commodity categories such as coal, chemicals, grain, and primary metal products. Rail intermodal traffic (shipping containers and truck trailers moved on rail cars) is reported separately.
The interactive chart above shows weekly rail traffic trends for the past few years. More detail is available in AAR’s
Weekly Railroad Traffic. Click
here to download a sample copy. AAR also posts a rail traffic press release every Thursday morning.
AAR Reports Weekly Rail Traffic for the Week Ending September 17, 2016
AAR Reports Weekly Rail Traffic for the Week Ending September 10, 2016
The chart above shows monthly rail traffic trends for the past few years created by averaging weekly rail traffic data. More detail is available in the AAR's
Rail Time Indicators Report (RTI). In addition to a vast amount of data on U.S. and Canadian rail traffic,
RTI includes more than 15 key economic indicators such as consumer confidence, housing starts, and industrial production.
RTI combines all of this information in a single place, highlighting key trends and presenting rail traffic data in the context of specific sectors and the broader economy.
Review of Key Economic Trends Shaping Demand for Rail Transportation
Each year, the seven U.S. Class I railroads — BNSF, CN (GTC), CP (SOO), CSX, KCS, NS, and UP — provide AAR rail traffic data with far more commodity detail than the weekly or monthly traffic data discussed above. The chart above provides 10-year trends for some major rail commodities based on this alterntive source of rail traffic data. Additional commodity detail is available in the AAR’s
Freight Commodity Statistics report.
Freight Commodity Statistics 2014
Data for 2014; contains U.S. Class I Railroad traffic by STCC.
FCS 2014 (RR Detail) Sample
FCS 2014 (History) Sample