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

Carload volume—at 241,682—was down 12.1 percent annually, Intermodal volumes—at 178,317 trailers and containers—were down 8 percent.

By ·

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, 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

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!

Article Topics

AAR · Intermodal · Rail Freight · All Topics
Hub Group Resources
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.
Click here to download
Latest Whitepaper
Private Fleet vs. Dedicated: Which one is right for you?
Having the right fleet for your business can give you an advantage over the competition and lower transportation costs.
Download Today!
From the April 2017 Issue
While adoption rates have remained relatively flat, yard management systems (YMS) are helping logistics operations turn that important space between the loading dock and the gate into a vital link in the supply chain.
Information Management: Wearables come in for a refit
2017 Air Cargo Roundtable: Positive Outlook Driven by New Demand
View More From this Issue
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Sign up today to receive our FREE, weekly email newsletter!
Latest Webcast
Maximize Your LTL Driver Adherence with Real-time Feedback
This webinar shows how companies are using real-time performance data to optimize the scheduling of their city fleets, as well as the routing of their standard, accelerated and time-critical shipments.
Register Today!
EDITORS' PICKS
2017 Salary Survey: Fresh Voices Express Optimism
Our “33rd Annual Salary Survey” reflects more diversity entering the logistics management...
LM Exclusive: Major Modes Join E-commerce Mix
While last mile carriers receive much of the attention, the traditional modal heavyweights are in...

ASEAN Logistics: Building Collectively
While most of the world withdraws inward, Southeast Asia is practicing effective cooperation between...
2017 Rate Outlook: Will the pieces fall into place?
Trade and transport analysts see a turnaround in last year’s negative market outlook, but as...