Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Latest News




AAR Reports Mixed Annual Rail Traffic


Monthly Traffic for December Mixed


Declines in Weekly Rail Traffic


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Jan. 3, 2013 – The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported mixed 2012 rail traffic compared with 2011.  U.S. rail intermodal volume totaled 12.3 million containers and trailers in 2012, up 3.2 percent or 374,918 units, over 2011. Carloads totaled 14.7 million in 2012, down 3.1 percent or 476,322 carloads, from 2011.  Intermodal volume in 2012 was the second highest on record, down 0.1 percent or 14,885 containers and trailers, from the record high totals of 2006.

In 2012, 12 of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by AAR saw increases on U.S. railroads compared with 2011.  The biggest gains were petroleum products, up 170,994 carloads or 46.3 percent; motor vehicles and parts, up 114,221 carloads or 16.5 percent; crushed stone, sand and gravel, up 71,012 carloads or 7.9 percent; and lumber and wood products, up 18,659 carloads or 13 percent.

The commodities with the biggest carload declines in 2012 from 2011 were coal, down 726,257 carloads or 10.8 percent; grain, down 106,289 carloads or 9.5 percent; and metallic ores, down 22,421 carloads or 5.7 percent.   Excluding coal and grain, U.S. rail carloads in 2012 were up 356,224 carloads or 4.9 percent over 2011, their third straight year-over-year annual increase.

“Coal and grain typically account for around half of U.S. rail carloads, so when they’re down, chances are good that overall rail carloads are down too, as we saw in 2012,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray.  “That said, a number of key rail carload categories showed solid improvement in 2012, including categories like autos and lumber that are most highly correlated with economic growth.  Meanwhile, intermodal just missed setting a new volume record in 2012.  In 2013, freight railroads look forward to continuing to provide the world’s safest, most cost effective freight rail transportation service.”

AAR also announced mixed December 2012 rail traffic, with U.S. railroads originating 1,086,990 carloads, down 4.2 percent from December 2011.  U.S. rail intermodal originations totaled 888,002 containers and trailers in December 2012, up 1.7 percent over December 2011.

During December 2012, 11 of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by AAR saw increases compared with December 2011.

Detailed monthly and annual data charts and tables will be available in AAR’s Rail Time Indicators report released online tomorrow.

AAR reported declines in weekly rail traffic for the week ending December 29, 2012, with U.S. railroads originating 211,921 carloads, down 13.8 percent compared with the same week last year. Intermodal volume for the week totaled 155,800 trailers and containers, down 14 percent compared with the same week last year.

Three of the 20 carload commodity groups posted increases compared with the same week in 2011, including: petroleum products, up 48.3 percent; coke, up 14.1 percent, and motor vehicles and equipment, up 6.7 percent. The groups showing a decrease in weekly traffic included: farm products, excluding grain, down 30 percent; grain, down 24.9 percent, and coal products, down 20.3 percent.

Weekly carload volume on Eastern railroads was down 14.6 percent compared with the same week last year. In the West, weekly carload volume was down 13.3 percent compared with the same week in 2011.

For the 52 weeks of 2012, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 14,682,819 carloads, down 3.1 percent from last year, and 12,267,336 trailers and containers, up 3.2 percent from last year.

Canadian railroads reported 59,978 carloads for the week, down 9.9 percent compared with the same week last year, and 34,844 trailers and containers, up 0.3 percent compared with 2011. For 2012, Canadian railroads reported cumulative volume of 4,009,097 carloads, up 2 percent from the same point last year, and 2,673,314 trailers and containers, up 6.6 percent from last year.

Mexican railroads reported 10,307 carloads for the week, down 1.9 percent compared with the same week last year, and 6,391 trailers and containers, up 11.6 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for 2012 was 749,024 carloads, up 1.3 percent compared to last year, and 519,259 trailers and containers, up 19 percent.

Combined North American rail volume for 2012 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 19,440,940 carloads, down 2 percent compared to last year, and 15,459,909 trailers and containers, up 4.2 percent compared with last year.


# # #

For more information contact: Nell Callahan, 202-464-6913, or Abigail Gardner, 202-464-6603, at, or Holly Arthur,, 202-639-2344.

About AAR: The Association of American Railroads (AAR) is the world's leading railroad policy, research and technology organization focusing on the safety and productivity of rail carriers. AAR members include the major freight railroads of the U.S., Canada and Mexico, as well as Amtrak. Learn more at Follow us on Twitter: AAR_FreightRail or Facebook: