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AAR reports carload and intermodal volumes up for week ending October 23

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
October 29, 2010

As in past weeks, railroad volumes for the week ending October 16 showed continued year-over-year improvement, according to data released by the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

Carload volume at 302,855 was up 9.6 percent year-over-year but behind the week ending October 16 at 303,664. The week ending October 9 hit 297,029 carloads.

Carload volume in the East was up 1.6 percent year-over-year. Out West, carloads were up 15.2 percent year-over-year.

In October 2009, the AAR began reporting weekly rail traffic with year-over-year comparisons for the previous two years, due to the fact that the economic downturn was in full effect at this time a year ago, and global trade was bottoming and economic activity was below current levels. Earlier this month, the AAR said it will no longer include 2008 annual comparisons in its week volume releases, because “October 2008 marked the beginning of the recession-related downturn in rail traffic.”

But as LM has reported, even with railroads in recovery mode, current volumes are still below peak levels, and annual gains occurring in 2010 are against a 2009 which has been described as the worst year for railroad traffic since deregulation, according to industry analysts.

Intermodal, which has been gaining strength for the majority of 2010, came in at 235,606 trailers and containers for a 13.6 percent annual increase. This was below the week ending October 16 at 237,180 trailers and containers but ahead of the week ending October 9 at 232,272. The high intermodal mark for 2010 to date is the week ending September 25 at 241,167.

Container volume at 201,460 was up 14.6 percent, and trailer volume at 34,316 was up 8.2 percent.

Shippers are turning to intermodal more as a cost-effective and efficient alternative to trucking, according to intermodal marketing company executives. And as volumes increase, railroads and IMC’s need to focus on maintaining high service levels for shippers, they said.

This much was evident in recent third quarter earnings releases by Norfolk Southern, CSX and Union Pacific, which both pointed to strong intermodal performance throughout the third quarter, with the expectation that it will continue.

In comments about his company’s excellent third quarter performance in which net income rose 51 percent to $778 million, Union Pacific Chairman and CEO Jim Young said that as the economy continues to recover, UP is ready to safely and reliably haul more freight, adding that the long-standing need for freight rail transportation in the U.S. provides Union Pacific with a stable foundation as well as a platform for future growth.

Year-to-date, total U.S. carload volumes at 12,031,777 carloads are up 7.4 percent year-over-year. Trailers or containers at 9,131,764 are up 14.6 percent year-over-year.

Of the 19 carload commodities tracked by the AAR, 16 were up year-over-year. Metallic ores were up 263.5 percent, and stone, clay and glass products were up 24.3 percent.

Weekly rail volume was estimated at 34.4 billion ton-miles, a 10.3 percent year-over-year increase. And total volume year-to-date at 1,327.0 billion ton-miles was up 8.5 percent year-over-year.

About the Author

Jeff Berman headshot
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. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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