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Carload and intermodal volumes begin year on a decline, reports AAR

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
January 11, 2013

Railroad volumes began the year on a decline, according to data released by the Association of American Railroads (AAR) this week.

For the week ending January 5, carload volume—at 241,682—was down 12.1 percent annually. It was behind the week ending December 29 at 211,921 and the week ending December 22 at 290,223.

Eastern carload volumes were down 12.3 percent annually, and out west carloads were down 12 percent.

Intermodal volumes—at 178,317 trailers and containers—were down 8 percent compared to the same period and were ahead of the week ending December 29 at 155,800 and behind the week ending December 22 at 240,119.

AAR officials said that weekly traffic volume for the week ending January 5 “was likely impacted by the New Year’s holiday, which fell on a Monday and Tuesday in 2013, as opposed to Saturday and Sunday in 2012.

Of the 20 commodity groups tracked by the AAR, 4 were up annually. Petroleum products were up 53.6 percent, and lumber and wood products were up 6 percent.
Iron, steel and scrap loadings were down 29.3 percent, and motor vehicles and equipment were down 20.6 percent. Coal was down 19.2 percent.

Estimated ton-miles for the week ending January 5 were down 11.1 percent at 28.1.
As previously reported, in 2012, United States railroad and intermodal volumes were mixed when the final count for the year was tallied up by the AAR.

2012 carload volume at 14,682,219 was down 3.1 percent compared to 2011’s 15,155,992 and was down less than 1 percent compared to 2010’s 14,820,128. Intermodal volume at 12,267,336 trailers and containers was up 3.2 percent compared to 2011’s 11,892,431 and was up 8 percent compared to 2010’s 11,283,151.

The AAR said that since 1988 the only year that total U.S. rail carloads were lower than 2012 was 2009, which hit roughly 13.8 million and was impacted by the effects of the recession.

2012 intermodal volume represents the second highest on record, according to the AAR, with volume down just 0.1 percent—or 14,885 containers and trailers—from 2006’s record high.

“2012 was not a great year for railroads in that they make money on the bulk commodities that were down, but it was not a terrible year either as they produced solid annual gains,” said Tony Hatch, principal of ABH Consulting. “There was nothing the railroads could have done to change those numbers at all.”

Hatch added that putting the 2012 numbers aside assessing areas where the railroads can assimilate traffic and share and where their services can pay off shows they did a very good job overall in 2012.

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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Article Topics

News · Intermodal · Rail Freight · AAR · All topics

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