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AAR reports rail volumes show annual increase during holiday week

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
September 17, 2010

Unlike past weeks, there were no 2010 records set for railroad traffic for the week ending September 11, according to data released by the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

A likely reason for that is directly linked to the Labor Day holiday, which fell during this week.

Carload volumes came in at 277,350 for a 5.1 percent annual gain and a 15.5 percent decline compared to 2008, said the AAR. The AAR pointed out that the corresponding week in 2009 also included the Labor Day holiday but 2008 did not. The week ending September 4 is the high traffic mark for 2010 at 305,000 carloads.

Intermodal container volume—at 206,850 trailers and containers—was up 18.1 percent year-over-year and down 12.7 percent compared to 2008. The 2010 high for intermodal occurred during the week ending August 28 at 237,194 trailers and containers.

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.

Carload volume in the East was up 1.2 percent year-over-year and down 20.8 percent compared to 2008. And out West carloads were up 7.7 percent year-over-year and down 11.7 percent compared to 2008.

While rail volumes are relatively healthy, current volumes are still below previous peak levels and are starting to face tougher year-over-year comparisons through the remainder of 2010, given the fact that 2009 was a down year for the rails in terms of volume growth.

Dahlman Rose transportation analyst Jason Seidl wrote in a research note that at his firm’s recently-held transportation conference that executives from leading Class I and short line railroads provided a much needed breath of fresh air by voicing optimism regarding the current state and prospects of the North American railroad industry and overall global economy.

“While they expressed some caution, none believed that a double-dip recession is likely to occur,” wrote Seidl. “Instead, they described a steady and sustainable, albeit slow, recovery, evident in their unique insight into multiple components of the economy and their recent interactions with their customers. The railroads noted continued strength in intermodal and automotive traffic.”

Year-to-date, total U.S. carload volumes at 10,223,248 carloads are up 7 percent year-over-year and down 12.7 percent compared to 2008. Trailers or containers at 7,701,274 are up 14.5 percent year-over-year and down 4.9 percent compared to 2008.

Of the 19 carload commodities tracked by the AAR, 15 were up year-over-year. Metallic ores were up 129.9 percent and farm products excluding grain up 38.7 percent.

Weekly rail volume was estimated at 30.4 billion ton-miles, a 5.9 percent year-over-year increase. And total volume year-to-date at 1,124.6 billion ton-miles was up 8.2 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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