AAR reports mixed volumes for February

Carloads—at 1,100,858—were down 1.1 percent annually. Intermodal—at 993,807 trailers and containers—was up 1.1 percent compared to February 2013 and marks the 51st consecutive annual monthly increase for intermodal volume, according to the AAR.

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The Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported this week that carload and intermodal volumes were mixed in February.

Carloads—at 1,100,858—were down 1.1 percent annually. Intermodal—at 993,807 trailers and containers—was up 1.1 percent compared to February 2013 and marks the 51st consecutive annual monthly increase for intermodal volume, according to the AAR. 

“It would be nice to be able to separate out the effects of the harsh winter on rail traffic, but we can’t do that,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray in a statement. “We can probably expect improvements in the rail numbers in the months ahead, assuming that the weather and the economy cooperate. In the meantime, crude oil has become a significant part of the railroad business. Railroads know how important it is to move crude oil safely, and they are committed to continually searching for ways to make this happen.”

Nine of the 20 commodities tracked by the AAR were up annually in February. Grain was up 12.3 percent—or 12.3 percent—and grain mill products were up 10.1 percent—or 3,645 carloads. Commodities seeing declines were coal down 3.5 percent—or 15,571 carloads, and primary metal products—down 7.2 percent or 3,092 carloads. When coal and grain loadings are removed from the total carload volume for February, the AAR said that carloads were down only 0.9 percent—or 5,186 carloads—compared to last February.

Overall rail volumes have been disappointing to start the first quarter, after strong 2H’13 results and positive undertones in the industrial economy,” wrote Avondale Partners analyst Donald Broughton in a research note. “Inclement weather has played a significant role on this quarter’s poor performance, slowing the entire North American rail network, resulting in significant decrease in train velocity and increases in cars online and dwell times. However, we would point out that cold temperatures could provide a tailwind to coal volumes in the out quarters, which could offset some of the weather related weakness.”

For the week ending March 1, the AAR said that carloads—at 287,294—were up 1.4 percent annually, and intermodal—at 257,710—was up 3.4 percent.


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Article Topics

AAR · Carload · Intermodal · All Topics
Hub Group Resources
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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