November rail and intermodal volumes show annual gains, says AAR

November carloads—at 1,476,635—were up 2.3 percent annually, marking the largest annual gain since last March.

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Both carload and intermodal volumes saw annual gains in November, according to data from the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

November carloads—at 1,476,635—were up 2.3 percent annually, marking the largest annual gain since last March. And intermodal—at 1,162,249 trailers and containers—was up 3.8 percent compared to November 2010. Both categories were also up sequentially, ahead of October’s 1,215,627 carloads and 975,566 trailers and containers.

“In November, U.S. rail carload traffic saw its highest year-over-year percentage increase in eight months, and year-over-year intermodal traffic grew for the 24th straight month,” said AAR Senior Vice President John Gray in a statement. “There are still clearly a lot of things that aren’t right with the economy, but we hope this improvement in rail traffic is a sign that the pace of economic growth is increasing.” 

The weekly carload average for November was 295,327, which was shy of October’s 303,907. While the average declined sequentially, carloadings increased every week in November, due in part to a number of trucking carriers pushing containerized loads onto rail for portions of their moves to reduce the impact of the driver shortage and tighter truck capacity, according to analysis by Rosalyn Wilson, author of the annual CSCMP State of Logistics report in the most recent Cass Freight Index report.

The weekly intermodal average was 232,450. AAR officials said that marks the third highest intermodal weekly average for any November in history.

At a time when freight transportation volumes are primarily showing flat or modest growth levels, intermodal still is showing very strong growth prospects, with the very likely possibility that the drivers for future intermodal gains are very promising, according to Class I railroad executives.

On a year-to-date basis through November, carloads and intermodal volumes at 14,021,412 and 11,019,041 are up 1.8 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively.

Of the 20 commodities tracked by the AAR, 13 were up year-over-year in November.


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

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Article Topics

AAR · Carload · Intermodal · 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.
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