Railroad and intermodal shipping: AAR reports steady carload increases year-over-

U.S. intermodal loadings hits highest level since late 2008

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Another steady carload freight volume increase for the week ending May 15 marked the 12th straight week volumes were up, according to data released by the Association of American Railroads.


Weekly carload volumes—at 290,263—were up 16.6 percent year-over-year and down 11.8 percent compared to 2008. This topped the week ending May 8 at 288,905 carloads and came up short compared to the week ending May 1 at 295,718 carloads. The week ending April 24, which hit 294,218 carloads, is the highest weekly carload level since December 2008, according to the AAR.

Carloads in the West were up 11.6 percent year-over-year and down 10.8 percent compared to 2008. And in the East carloads were up 24.5 percent year-over-year and down 13.1 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.

Intermodal container and trailer volumes-at 218,206 trailers and containers—were up 15.2 percent year-over-year and down 6.7 percent to 2008. Intermodal container volume was up 16.8 percent year-over-year and up 0.8 percent compared to 2008.

Trailer volume was up 6.9 percent annually and down 34.6 percent compared to 2008.
On a sequential basis, total intermodal loadings were above the weeks ending May 8 and May 1, which hit and 208,809 and 213,013, respectively, and marking the highest week
for total intermodal volume since the 47th week of 2008.

Robert W. Baird and Co. analyst Jon Langenfeld wrote in a research note that intermodal is well-positioned for continued growth.

“We expect both domestic and international growth to continue given ongoing domestic truckload conversion and economic growth,” Langenfeld wrote. “Tightened intermodal container capacity should support intermodal rail rate increases.”

As LM has reported, recent railroad volume growth could lead to a bright picture for the remainder of 2010, according to industry analysts.

These analysts have cited increased industrial production growth in the form of manufacturing and new orders indices, as well as gradual consumer spending, among other factors, as drivers for these gains.

On a year-to-date basis, total U.S. carload volumes at 5,348,826 carloads are up 6.3 percent year-over-year and down 13.8 percent compared to 2008. Trailers or containers at 3,893,058 are up 10.3 percent year-over-year and down 8.1 percent compared to 2008.

The strong sequential growth in recent weekly railroad volumes serves as confirmation of previous so-called “green shoots” that railroad volumes were rebounding, according to industry experts.

Of the 19 products tracked by the AAR, 14 were up year-over-year, with metallic ores up 140.9 percent and metals up 82.9. Pulp, paper and allied products were each down 2.8 percent.

Weekly rail volume was estimated at 32.3 billion ton-miles year-over-year. And total volume year-to-date at 585.9 billion ton-miles was up 7.3 percent year-over-year and down 10.2 percent compared to 2008.

 


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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