I have read a lot recently about how you get the real GDP numbers out of China. Don't bother with the government statistics rather just go look at the piles of coal at the electric power plants. As China has said their economy is doing fine, observers of coal piles have seen them grow and grow. Why is this important? The growth of the coal piles signifies a massive slow down in the demand for electricity which, in turns, means factories are idling. When factories idle, you have lower GDP. Voila! It may not be scientific however doing econometrics with raw data which is flawed is a waste of time.
So, I thought I would use this way to look at transportation and I did not like what I saw. Driving through Chicago yesterday passing by the big intermodal yards I saw stacks and stacks of 53' containers which clearly had been "mothballed". They were not at the yard "in transit" rather they were in the yard and parked. They were stacked high and tight. This indicates carriers are parking containers which clearly indicates a massive slowdown in freight pretty close to the time where it should be gearing up for the holidays.
All indications are the economy has softened dramatically and this is just another indicator. I may patent this methodology, go to Chicago every week and take a picture, compare them against previous weeks like you would a bar graph. My guess is this would be just as good as some of the other "analysis" I have seen.