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Rail carload volumes hit highest level since late 2008, says AAR

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
April 08, 2011

Signs of slow and steady economic growth continue to appear of late in weekly rail carload and intermodal volumes released by the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

For the week ending April 2, the AAR reported that carload volume hit its highest level since the end of 2008 at 305,905 carloads for a 5.7 percent annual increase. This outpaced the weeks ending March 26, March 19, and March 12, which hit 200,903, 292,164, and 303,953, respectively.

Carload volume was up 5 percent in the East and up 6.1 percent out West. Total carloads currently stand at 3,773,949 for a 5.1 percent year-over-year increase on a year-to-date basis.

Intermodal volume for the week was up 19.4 percent at 234,308 trailers and containers, which was ahead of the week ending March 26 at 223,034 and the week ending March 19 at 222,788.

So far in 2010, railroad volumes are off to a solid start especially when considering the havoc caused by harsh weather conditions in various parts of the country. What’s more, Morgan Stanley analyst William Greene observed in a research note that “rail traffic ended the quarter on a positive note with trends surpassing normal seasonality and with all rails exceeding YTD YoY growth rates in the final week of the quarter.”

Volumes continue to show steady growth on an annual and sequential basis, while the percentage levels of annual gains are lessening due to the fact that 2010 was being compared to a dismal 2009, a low point for freight transportation volumes.

Of the 20 commodity groups tracked by the AAR, 15 were up annually. Motor vehicles and equipment were up 25.7 percent, and metallic ores and metals and products were up 25.7 percent and 23.4 percent, respectively. Primary forest products were down 29.3 percent.

Estimated ton-miles for the week were 34.3 billion for a 7.2 percent annual increase, and on a year-to-date basis, the 425.1 billion ton-miles recorded are up 6.3 percent.

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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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