Subscribe to our free, weekly email newsletter!


August rail volumes are mixed, says AAR

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
September 07, 2010

August rail carload totals were again a bit of a mixed bag, according to data published by the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

The AAR reported that monthly rail carloads for August—at 1,179,447—were up 5.7 percent year-over-year and down 11.6 percent from 2008. August carloads were down 1.6 percent compared to July on a seasonally adjusted basis. But U.S. carloads averaged 294,862 carloads per week in August, which is its highest level since November 2008. What’s more, the last week of August brought the highest U.S. rail carload total—at 302,358—for any week to date in 2008.

Intermodal traffic in July—at 938,573 containers and trailers—was up 19.7 percent year-over-year and down 0.3 percent compared to 2008. The AAR said the weekly average of 234,643 trailers and containers was marks the highest weekly average since October 2008. This output tops July’s total of 883,593 containers and trailers and its 220,998 weekly average. And like the carload side, the last week of August—at 237,194 trailers and containers—marked the highest weekly level of 2010 to date. Total intermodal traffic was up 0.6 percent from July.

Domestic intermodal traffic continues to see strong sequential growth due in large part to conversions of over-the-road domestic traffic to rail and to growth in international trade.

This is indicative, said the AAR, of a years-long trend of domestic freight converting from truck trailers to containers on rail; truck trailers can be double-stacked, which makes them more cost-efficient and effective.

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.

As LM has reported, while railroad activity is clearly picking up compared to a dismal 2009, it is still lagging 2008 and earlier years on an absolute volume basis. And based on various economic indicators it is clear it will be a while more until rail volumes return to the same levels as previous years.

“It is very difficult right now for anyone to forecast the economy’s path. We also know from experience that things can change very quickly,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray in a statement. “That said, there is little in last month’s rail traffic data that would indicate economic recovery has stalled. While a faster recovery path would be attractive to railroads and our customers, the data so far show a slow measured recovery is probably continuing.”

Of the 18 major commodities tracked by the AAR, 15 saw carload gains on an annual basis. Motor vehicles and parts were up 15.6 percent, and primary forest products were down 4.4 percent.

Railroad employee numbers grew to 153,046 employees in July 2010 (the most recent month for which data is available) from 151,527 in June 2010, with U.S. Class I railroads adding 7,400 employees over the last six months. And the AAR said 10,759 rail cars were brought back into service in August, with 348,712 cars—or 22.7 percent—of the North American railcar fleet currently remaining in storage, it said.

“The pessimism we hear about the durability of the recovery does not apply to the rails,” said Anthony B. Hatch, principal of ABH Consulting, in a recent interview. “And, with rail traffic a coincident indicator, perhaps we should take more heart about the economy.  Rail traffic has remained shockingly strong, well after the May ’09 trough comparisons.”

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).


Subscribe to Logistics Management magazine

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Get timely insider information that you can use to better manage your
entire logistics operation.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Recent Entries

U.S. carloads were down 2.4 percent annually at 284,618, and intermodal volume was up 6.7 percent compared to the same week as last year at 277,854 trailers and containers.

The results of the 2015 MHI Annual Industry Report were released at Wednesday’s ProMat keynote, with some of the biggest findings from the report’s survey being pricing pressure combined with ever growing customer expectations for a faster, better experience.

Seasonally-adjusted (SA) for-hire truck tonnage in February was down 3.1 percent (2000=100) compared to a revised 1.3 percent (from 1.2 percent) increase in January. ATA said this reading marks the lowest level for the SA index going back to last September.

It was a busy day for railroad-related legislation yesterday, with the United States Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee approving two bills with a railroad focus by a voice vote. The respective bills are S. 808, the Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2015 and S. 650, the Railroad Safety and Positive Train Control Extension Act.

Indications given by a splinter group of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union suggest that shippers should not assume the tentative contract with the Pacific Maritime Association is a “done deal.”

Article Topics

News · Intermodal · AAR · Carload · All topics

Comments

Post a comment
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.


© Copyright 2015 Peerless Media LLC, a division of EH Publishing, Inc • 111 Speen Street, Ste 200, Framingham, MA 01701 USA