Intermodal is up and carloads are down for week ending May 7, says AAR

By Jeff Berman · May 13, 2011

Rail traffic was again mixed for the week ending May 7 on a year-over-year basis compared to last year, according to data released by the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

Carload volume—at 281,860—was down 2.6 percent annually and also behind the week ending April 30, which hit 295,327 and 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 down 0.1 percent in the East and down 4.2 percent out West. Carloads on a year-to-date basis are at 5,233,086 for a 3.4 percent annual gain.

Intermodal volume—at 232,178 trailers and containers—were up 11.2 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 ahead of the weeks ending April 30 and April 23, which were at 229,677 and 225,668, respectively.

Truckload carriers and shippers have told LM that intermodal business is seeing steady gains by moving freight to intermodal, even though it typically adds at least a day or two to transit times.

Of the 20 commodity groups tracked by the AAR, 6 were up annually. Grain products were up 19.9 percent, and metals and metal products were up 13.1 percent. Primary forest products were down 19.5 percent, and nonmetallic minerals were down 16.3 percent.

Estimated ton-miles for the week were 31.2 billion for a 1.6 percent annual decrease, and on a year-to-date basis, the 586.8 billion ton-miles recorded are up 4.6 percent.

Despite sequential decreases in recent weeks, the overall outlook for railroad and intermodal volumes remains promising, according to Jon Langenfeld, Robert W. Baird & Co. analyst.

“Recent rail commentary remains optimistic for volume growth above GDP growth rates given secular intermodal growth, an improving industrial environment, and continued economic recovery,” Langenfeld wrote in a research note.

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About the Author

Jeff Berman
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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