The Association of American Railroads has released its Rail Time Indicators (pdf) report for January 2011 which provides a great deal of data covering the freight rail industry in 2010. We have previously followed trends in railroad traffic more closely than many other macroeconomic indicators partially inspired by Warren Buffett’s comments regarding his choice of railcar loadings as one of the economic indicators he would wish to receive if stranded on a desert island. The January AAR report is particularly interesting because it includes comparisons to prior years and reveals that the rebound in 2010, while very sharp, has not come close to erasing the devastating impact of the recession. Read this article for more details.
A debate over regulatory oversight of American railroads is heating up in Washington. A study report from the Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has found that major railroads are now financially stable and enjoy substantial pricing power. In light of improved conditions since the enactment of railroad deregulation in 1980, the report suggests that railroads should be under greater scrutiny in terms of pricing particularly as it relates to practices such as charging captive shippers higher rates than other shippers. The study has drawn a sharp rebuke from the Association of American Railroads. Read this article for more information and an interesting piece of trivia.
The January 2010 issue of Rail Time Indicators was published today and a video summary of the report appears below. As the report notes, 2009 was a year that hopefully will not repeat in the future. For the full year, U.S. railroads originated the lowest number of carloads since before 1988 when the AAR data series began. Good Riddance indeed. Read this article for more details and to view a video summary for 2009.