U.S. carloads were down 0.7 percent in January to about 1 million carloads from January 2009, and down 17.7 percent from 2008
, according to the Association of American Railroads' Rail Time Indicators report. Meanwhile, last month's intermodal traffic, which includes movement of truck trailers and shipping containers, was up 2.5 percent to 803,275 units compared with January 2009, but down 11.2 percent compared with the same month in 2008.

The Rail Time Indicators report comprises monthly rail traffic data framed with other key economic indicators to show how freight rail is tied to the broader U.S. economy.

Thirteen of the 19 commodity categories tracked by AAR saw year-over-year gains from January 2009, with nonmetallic minerals seeing the highest gain, up 65.9 percent. The motor vehicles and parts category also saw a significant monthly boost, up 65.7 percent compared with January last year. However, all commodity categories, with the exception of grain mill products, were down in January when compared with the same month in 2008.

For the first time, AAR is also providing seasonally adjusted U.S. rail traffic in the Rail Time Indicators report, using January 1988 through December 2009 as the basis for the seasonal adjustment. Seasonally adjusted carloads in January were up 2.6 percent from December 2009, and were the highest of any month in the past 11 months.

"Seasonal adjustment is designed to improve month-to-month comparisons and eliminate seasonal components that can mask underlying trends," said John Gray, AAR senior vice president.

More info: www.aar.org