AAR data points to solid growth for rail volumes

Railroad volumes were up again for both carload and intermodal for the week ending March 19, according to data from the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

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Railroad volumes were up again for both carload and intermodal for the week ending March 19, according to data from the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

Carload volume at 293,772 was up 2.3 percent compared to the same week a year ago, and was ahead of the week ending March 12 at 292,164, but below the week ending March 5 at 303,953 and the week ending February 26 at 296,252.Carload volume was down 0.5 percent in the East and up 4.2 percent out West, matching Western output percentage wise from the week ending March 12. .

Intermodal volumes were up 10.7 percent with 222,788 trailers and containers, topping the week ending March 12 at 216,828 trailers and containers and the week ending March 5 at 214,343 and behind the week ending February 26 at 220,589.

As LM has reported, volumes are continuing to display annual and sequential growth to a large degree even though the percentage levels of annual gains are decreasing, due to the fact that 2010 was being compared to 2009, which was a low point for freight transportation volumes. Rail prospects for 2011 remain very encouraging, though, as railroads have been able to maintain solid pricing power in conjunction with volume increases.

Of the 20 commodity groups tracked by the AAR, 12 were up annually. Metallic ores were up 93.5 percent, and petroleum products were up 12.9 percent. Waste and nonferrous scrap and primary forest products were down 14 percent and 10.1 percent, respectively.

Estimated ton-miles for the week were 33.2 billion for a 3.4 percent annual increase, and on a year-to-date basis, the 357.0 billion ton-miles recorded are up 6.5 percent.

ABH Consulting Principal Tony Hatch wrote in a recent research note that rail traffic is on solid footing.

“Rail traffic remains strong, and so far, the wars, earthquakes and government shutdown threats haven’t dimmed the near term outlook…..the intermediate outlook remains terrific and the rail renaissance over the longer term every bit intact,” wrote Hatch.

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About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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Not Your Grandfather's Intermodal
Transportation of freight in containers was first recorded around 1780 to move coal along England’s Bridgewater Canal. However, "modern" intermodal rail service by a major U.S. railroad only dates back to 1936. Malcom McLean’s Sea-Land Service significantly advanced intermodalism, showing how freight could be loaded into a “container” and moved by two or more modes economically and conveniently. As with all new technologies, there were problems that slowed the growth, which influenced many potential customers to shy away from moving intermodal.
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