Railroad shipping: AAR reports steady carload and intermodal gains for week ending May 14

Carload volume—at 294,271—was up 1.6 percent annually and ahead of the week ending May 7 at 281,860.

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After a few weeks of mixed results, rail traffic saw steady gains for the week ending May 14, according to data released by the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

Carload volume—at 294,271—was up 1.6 percent annually and ahead of the week ending May 7 at 281,860. It was slightly below the week ending April 30, which hit 295,327 and ahead of the week ending April 23 at 292,706. It was also behind the week ending April 2, which hit 305,905 carloads, marking the highest weekly carload tally since the end of 2008.

Carload volume was up 1 percent in the East and up 2.1 percent out West. Carloads on a year-to-date basis are at 5,527,357 for a 3.3 percent annual gain.

Intermodal volume—at 231,875 trailers and containers—were up 6.1 percent compared to last year, continuing steady gains being helped, in part, by modal shifts by carriers looking for financial relief from increasing fuel prices. This was behind the week ending May 7 at 232,178 and ahead of the week ending April 30 at 229.

As LM has reported, truckload carriers and shippers are moving more freight via intermodal, even though it typically adds at least a day or two to transit times.

Of the 20 commodity groups tracked by the AAR, ten were up annually. Metallic ores were up 17.5 percent, and grain was up 14.2 percent. Primary forest products were down 13.6 percent, and farm products, excluding grain, were down 13 percent.

Estimated ton-miles for the week were 32.6 billion for a 0.8 percent annual increase, and on a year-to-date basis, the 619.5 billion ton-miles recorded are up 26.8 percent.

A research note by Dahlman Rose analyst Jason Seidl noted that the railroad industry is benefiting from an “ongoing economic recovery, intermodal growth, rising fuel prices, aggressive capital investments, and well-capitalized balance sheets.”

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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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