(John Kemp is a Reuters market analyst. The views expressed are
* Transportation services index: tmsnrt.rs/1UTYLgg
* Freight demand year on year: tmsnrt.rs/1UTYRVj
* Freight and distillate consumption: tmsnrt.rs/1UTYZnQ
By John Kemp
LONDON, Jan 15 Freight volumes in the United
States have fallen year on year for the first time since 2012
and before that the recession of 2009, according to the Bureau
of Transportation Statistics.
The total volume of freight moved by road, rail, pipeline,
inland waterways and as air cargo in November 2015 was 1.1
percent lower than in the corresponding month a year earlier (tmsnrt.rs/1UTYLgg).
Freight demand growth has been slowing since the start of
last year but the slowdown intensified in the second half and
November marked the first time that year-on-year growth turned
Volumes have been hit by a combination of factors. Coal
shipments to power producers have fallen as a result of cheaper
natural gas and stricter environmental regulations.
Exports of manufactured products and basic commodities are
down thanks to a stronger dollar which has made U.S. producers
less competitive in global markets.
Farmers have delayed shipping some grains, especially corn
and soy beans, in the hope that prices will recover in future.
Manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers have cut new orders
as they struggle to reverse excess inventories built up as a
result of over-ordering in 2014 and early 2015.
Freight shipments related to oil, gas and mining have
tumbled as the plunge in commodity prices forces a widespread
slowdown in drilling and quarrying.
Total traffic on major U.S. railroads fell 2.5 percent last
year, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR).
Rail freight volumes were lower in 6 of 11 categories,
including coal, farm products, forest products, metals,
minerals, and petroleum and refined fuels, and the downturn
deepened in the second half of 2015.
The freight recession is depressing the demand for diesel,
the fuel most closely associated with oil and gas extraction,
mining, manufacturing and commercial transportation.
Distillate demand growth peaked at the start of 2015 and
slowed throughout the year before turning negative in the second
(Editing by William Hardy)