U.S. rail intermodal traffic rose 3.2% to 12.3 million containers and trailers in 2012 from the year before, the second highest total on record, the Association of American Railroads said.
Intermodal volume was down 0.1% from record high totals in 2006, AAR said.
Total carloads fell 3.1% to 14.7 million in 2012 from the prior year.
AAR also said December intermodal traffic increased 1.7% to 888,002 containers and trailers from December 2011.
Intermodal traffic dropped 14% last week over the same week a year ago, and container traffic for the week ended Saturday fell 12.5% to 137,006, units and trailer traffic fell 24% to 18,794 units, AAR said.
Railroad carloads — excluding intermodal — fell 13.8% to 211,921 units for the week, AAR said in its weekly report.
Railroad volume is considered an important economic indicator. Intermodal traffic, which tends to be higher-valued merchandise than bulk commodities, uses trains for the long haul and trucks for shorter distances at either end of the trip.