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Rail carload volumes hit 2010 high, says AAR

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
September 10, 2010

As has been the case in recent weeks, volumes for U.S. railroads continue to be record-breaking and the week ending September 4 was no exception, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

Carload volumes hit a 2010 record high for the second straight week at 305,000, which was up 6.9 percent year-over-year and even compared to 2008. AAR officials pointed out that this same week in 2008 included the Labor Day holiday, while 2010 and 2009 did not. The week ending August 28 hit 302, 358 carloads and the weeks ending August 21 and August 14 hit 296,334 and 295,948, respectively. And the week ending July 31, which hit 300,292 carloads, was the previous best weekly carload output for all of 2010 prior to the last two weeks.

Intermodal container volume—at 237,006— was up 18 percent compared to 2009 and up 18 percent compared to 2008. While not record-breaking, this tally was in line with the week ending August 28 which hit 237,194 trailers and containers and is now the second highest weekly level for 2010—ahead of the weeks ending August 21 and August 14m which respectively hit 236,404 and 233,767 trailers and containers.

Intermodal container volume—at 202,239— was up 19.4 percent compared to 2009 (just below 202,442 for the week ending August 29) and up 27.1 percent compared to 2008. And trailer volume—at 34,767— was up 10.7 percent and down 16.9 percent compared to 2008.

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.

Carload volume in the East was up 4.7 percent year-over-year and down 1.5 percent compared to 2008. And out West carloads were up 8.4 percent year-over-year and down 0.9 percent compared to 2008.

While rail volumes are relatively healthy, current volumes are still below previous peak levels and are starting to face tougher year-over-year comparisons through the remainder of 2010, given the fact that 2009 was a down year for the rails in terms of volume growth.

“End of August volume trends compared to mid-June are modestly better to in-line with seasonal trends,” wrote Jon Langenfeld, Robert W. Baird transportation analyst. “Railroad commentary reflects customer expectations for modest seasonal pickup in volume from current levels, indicative of a peak season. Notably, 2009 comparisons will continue to firm, with [year-over-year] trend moderation expected.”

Year-to-date, total U.S. carload volumes at 9,945,718 carloads are up 7.1 percent year-over-year and down 12.6 percent compared to 2008. Trailers or containers at 7,494,424 are up 14.4 percent year-over-year and down 4.7 percent compared to 2008.

Of the 19 carload commodities tracked by the AAR, 13 were up year-over-year. Metallic ores were up 57.1 percent and metals & products were up 30.2 percent. Primary forest products were down 4.5 percent. 

Weekly rail volume was estimated at 33.2 billion ton-miles, a 7.1 percent year-over-year increase. And total volume year-to-date at 1,060.7 billion ton-miles was up 8.3 percent year-over-year.

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 · Railroad · Intermodal · AAR · Carload · All topics

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