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FAQ – FTR COVID-19 Rail Freight Recovery Index

The index assesses national impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the U.S. railroad industry. Questions are answered below.

View the index at www.FTRintel.com/Coronavirus.

What is the Rail Freight Recovery Index?

A measure of the railroad industry’s response and recovery due to the COVID-19 pandemic utilizing AAR’s Weekly Rail Traffic report.

100 = Full recovery to seasonally-adjusted pre-pandemic volume levels.

What is the methodology being used to generate the Rail Freight Recovery Index?

Compares weekly railroad volumes to the average of that week for the last 5 years. Indexes utilize all 22 commodity segments in the AAR Weekly Rail Traffic report.

Data is indexed to February 2020. The index measures the changes in volumes compared to the historical 5-year pattern and adjusted by February 2020 results. The index accounts for normal seasonal fluctuations in railroad volumes.

An index level of 100 indicates that volumes have returned to pre-pandemic levels if normal seasonal patterns had occurred.

The index covers not just total carload and intermodal volumes but also component indexes for several key carload sectors – energy, automotive, and economically sensitive freight. The economically sensitive freight index removes the effects of coal, petroleum products, and agricultural commodities which are less tied to the underlying economy.

What do the ‘Phases’ mean?

Shutdown – The time during which the country was going into, and maintaining, strict containment policies due to COVID-19. The restocking impacts are seen early in this phase with a clear pattern of reduced volumes the longer that they were maintained.

Restart – Once volumes have recovered from the trough effect they will enter a restart phase as states and regions begin to ease restrictions on travel and commerce.

Full Recovery – As volumes approach 95% of Full Recovery levels (100) we consider this to be a strong enough indication that the market has rebounded that we are out of the restart phase.

What is the Index telling me?

The index will help you quickly identify when, and by how much, the overall market is reacting. The FTR/Truckstop.com Heatmap Dashboard can help you more clearly identify where those areas of change are occurring.

What is the definition of N.A. Carload?

A rail load that moves in a specific cartype for rail line traffic. It does not include Intermodal moves.

What is the definition of N.A. Intermodal?

A rail load that moves in a multi-modal container or trailer. It only includes the rail portion of those moves.

What is the definition of Economically Sensitive Freight?

It is N.A. Carload activity that excludes Coal, Petroleum Products, and Agriculture commodities. The excluded segments are less tied to the underlying economic cycles.

What is the definition of Automotive?

All carload moves, both completed units and parts, that are tied directly to the automotive sector.

What is the definition of Energy?

All carload moves of Petroleum Products and Coal.