US Railroad Carloads Below 2009/2010 Lows by Eric Bush, CFA – Gavekal Capital Blog
Total railroad traffic carloads have fallen off a cliff this year. This is volatile weekly series so looking at the one-year moving average is useful. From 1988-2008 the one-year moving average vacillated between 320,000 carloads to 350,000 carloads. The one-year moving average dropped to 265,000 in early 2010 but rebounded to around 290,000 from 2011-2015. It has since dropped like a stone and the latest reading is the lowest on record for this series.
A decline in coal carloads is a major reason for the drop in overall total carloads. Coal carloads have declined by about half since 2011. Coal accounted for about 45% of the total carloads in 2011. That has dropped to about 33%. There has also been a significant decline in petroleum products. In aggregate petroleum products only accounts for about 5% of total carloads. However, the decline in petroleum products has been pretty significant from a percentage basis. From its peak in 2014, petroleum product carloads have declined by nearly a third.