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AAR reports carload and intermodal volumes up for week ending October 30

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
November 05, 2010

Railroad volumes for the week ending October 30 showed continued year-over-year improvement, according to data released by the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

Carload volume at 292,884 was up 6.3 percent year-over-year, but down compared to the weeks ending October 23 and October 16 at 302,855 and 303,664, respectively.

Carload volume in the East was down 0.3 percent year-over-year. Out West, carloads were up 11.1 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 232,717 trailers and containers for a 14.2 percent annual increase, which was slightly below the week ending October 23 at 235,606 trailers and containers and the week ending October 16 at 232,272. The high intermodal mark for 2010 to date is the week ending September 25 at 241,167.

Container volume at 197,431 was up 15.7 percent, and trailer volume at 35,286 was up 6.5 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.

Of the 19 carload commodities tracked by the AAR, 13 were up year-over-year. Metallic ores were up 128.2 percent, and crushed stone, sand, and gravel loadings were up 27.5 percent. Coal loadings at 128,434 were up 3.6 percent year-over-year.

Avondale Partners analyst Donald Broughton wrote in a research note that coal is finally beginning to contribute to what have been resurgent volumes, as coal stockpiles have moved back toward normal levels.

“The coal stockpile replenishment cycle usually yields weekly coal volumes for the industry in the 150-160k carload range as opposed to the recent range of 130-145k,” wrote Broughton. “This comes on top of the steady rise in intermodal units and the strong volumes seen in chemical and metals, as well as the growing boost from agricultural volumes moving forward.”

Year-to-date, total U.S. carload volumes at 12,324,661 carloads are up 7.3 percent year-over-year. Trailers or containers at 9,364,481 are up 14.6 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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