Subscribe to our free, weekly email newsletter!


Railroad shipping: AAR June volumes are a mixed bag

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
July 14, 2010

As in previous months in 2010, June rail carload totals were a mixed bag, according to data published by the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

The AAR reported that monthly rail carloads for June—at 1,415,630—were up 10.6 percent year and down 10.2 percent from 2008. June carloads were down 1.3 percent compared to May, which was down 1.1 percent compared to April. U.S. carloads averaged 283,126 carloads per week in June, down from 288,419 in May and 294,758 in April.

Intermodal traffic in June—at 1,101,333 containers and trailers—was up 19.2 percent from June 2009 and down 1.4 percent from June 2008. And the AAR said the weekly average of 220,267 trailers and containers was its highest since October 2008, topping the previous high compared to October 2008 from May, which hit 216,879 trailers and containers.

The AAR said that average weekly container volume in June was the ninth highest since 1980. This is indicative, said the AAR, of a years-long trend of domestic freight converting from truck trailers to containers on rail; truck trailers can be double-stacked, which makes them more cost-efficient and effective.

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.

While railroad activity is clearly picking up compared to a dismal 2009, it is still lagging 2008 and earlier years on an absolute volume basis. And based on various economic indicators it is clear it will be a while more until rail volumes return to the same levels as previous years.

And while carloads have seen sequential declines in recent months, AAR officials cautioned that this does not indicate it is the beginning of a steep volume decline either. They added that an economy several months into a recovery from the worst recession in decades should be yielding rail traffic levels heading north, not south. June rail traffic, according to the AAR, is consistent with an economy that is in far better shape that it was nine-to-12 months ago.

“While June traffic shows signs of an economy that is in better shape than it was a year ago, we still have a long way to go to see rail traffic levels associated with a full recovery,” said AAR Senior Vice President John Gray, in a statement. “For example, both the Purchasing Managers Index and consumer confidence fell in June.”

Overall economic activity is likely to remain bumpy over the next several months, due largely to a shaky unemployment outlook and sluggish consumer spending. The AAR’s monthly Rail Time Indicators report noted that while the U.S. unemployment rate dipped from 9.7 percent in May to 9.5 percent in June, railroad employee numbers grew to 149,967 employees in May 2010 from 149,749 in April 2010, the most recent month for which data is available. And following a relatively low 747 cars being brought back in service in May, the AAR said 3,064 rail cars were brought back into service in June.

Of the 18 major commodities tracked by the AAR, 16 saw carload gains on an annual basis. Coal continued a modest recovery with a 2.1 percent gain. Grain was up 11.9 percent, and motor vehicles and parts were up 50.9 percent. Grain mill products were down 7.1 percent, and farm products excluding grain were down 2.9 percent.

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).


Subscribe to Logistics Management magazine

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Get timely insider information that you can use to better manage your
entire logistics operation.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Recent Entries

The Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) August edition of the Manufacturing Report on Business saw its PMI, the ISM’s index to measure growth, fall 1.6 percent to 51.1, following a 0.8 percent decline to 52.7 in July. Even with the relatively slow growth over the last two months, the PI has been at 50 or higher for 31 consecutive months.

Hackett observed in the new report that China’s economy has lost steam, with actual growth falling short of targeted rates, while the United States most recent second quarter GDP reading at 3.7 percent outpaced expected targets, even though it was negatively impacted by gains in manufacturing and retail inventories.

The proposed merger of Cosco and CSCL could spark further container consolidation

The average price dropped 4.7 cents to $2.514 per gallon, which now stands at the lowest weekly average price for diesel since July 2009, when it was at $2.542 the week of July 27, 2009, according to EIA data.

The Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reported this week that U.S. trade with its North America Free Trade Agreement partners Canada and Mexico in June dropped 3.8 percent annually to $99.0 billion. This followed a 10.8 percent decline in May to $92.7 billion.

Article Topics

News · Railroad · Rail Freight · All topics

Comments

Post a comment
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.


© Copyright 2015 Peerless Media LLC, a division of EH Publishing, Inc • 111 Speen Street, Ste 200, Framingham, MA 01701 USA