AAR reports strong rail carload and intermodal volumes for week ending May 21

Carload volume—at 295,148—was up 2.3 percent compared to the same timeframe last year and slightly ahead of the week ending May 14 at 294,271. 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.

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Rail traffic was solid for the week ending May 21, according to data released by the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

Carload volume—at 295,148—was up 2.3 percent compared to the same timeframe last year and slightly ahead of the week ending May 14 at 294,271. 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 0.9 percent in the East and up 3.3 percent out West. Carloads on a year-to-date basis are at 5,822,505 for a 3.3 percent annual gain.

Intermodal volume—at 234,235 trailers and containers—was up 8.7 percent from last year. This was ahead of the week ending May 14 at 231,875. Intermodal volumes are being boosted in part by modal shifts by carriers looking for financial relief from increasing fuel prices.

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, 12 were up annually. Grain was up 12.9 percent, and metallic ores were up 11.5 percent. Primary forest products were down 10.1 percent.

Estimated ton-miles for the week were 32.8 billion for a 3.5 percent annual increase, and on a year-to-date basis, the 652.3 billion ton-miles recorded are up 4.3 percent.


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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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