"As long as the economy has a steady growth to it, we're positive about having growth in volumes," the railroad executive said.
Union Pacific is forecasting another decline in coal volumes in 2013, but nothing like the 14 percent drop in 2012. Low natural gas prices and sluggish economic growth have put pressure on shale volumes.
Knight sees better growth in hauling shale oil. "Our growth in 2012 in the oil trains was 80 percent," he said. He's projecting strong double-digit growth for 2013.
"Our projections are that we'll continue to see strong growth in unit oil trains, which is shale-related oil," Knight said. "We're in a great position to haul both sand that goes into the drilling activities and then hauling the oil trains out of the shale activities."
Knight also sees positive signs in autos and housing.
(Read More: Auto Transport Growth Not as Strong: CSX CEO)
Union Pacific should be able to continue to raise prices in 2013 after a 4 to 4.5 percent gain over the past five years, Knight said. "We gave guidance for inflation plus kind of pricing," he said. "We're confident we can still get pricing."