Rail carloading activity should pick up in the next few months, a leading transportation research firm said Thursday, a day after an industry group reported that carloadings in 2009 fell to their lowest levels in 22 years.
FTR Associates of Nashville, Ind., forecast that carloads would be 4.6 percent higher in 2010 than in 2009. "We expect to see comparisons turn modestly positive in the first quarter and then to accelerate later in the year," said FTR President Eric Starks. "We will remain cautious about our outlook for all transportation segments in the short term, but we are confident that the worst is over."
FTR's upbeat forecast comes one day after the Association of American Railroads (AAR) issued a report showing that 2009 carload traffic—excluding intermodal traffic—was down 16.1 percent from 2008 levels and had plumbed depths not seen since 1988. In December, carloads were down 4.1 percent compared with December 2008, and down 17.6 percent compared with December 2007, primarily due to declines in coal carloadings, AAR said.
U.S. rail intermodal traffic, which covers the movement of truck trailers and shipping containers by rail, posted a 14.1-percent decline compared with 2008, and a 17.7-percent drop compared with 2007, AAR said. Last year saw the lowest intermodal traffic levels since 2002, according to AAR.