Railroad shipping: AAR reports August 2011 volumes are mixed

August carloads—at 1,482,570—were down 0.3 percent annually. Intermodal—at 1,179,838 trailers and containers—was up 0.4 percent compared to August 2010.

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As has been the case in previous months, the Association for American Railroads (AAR) reported that carload and intermodal volumes in August were mixed.

August carloads—at 1,482,570—were down 0.3 percent annually. Intermodal—at 1,179,838 trailers and containers—was up 0.4 percent compared to August 2010.

Of the 20 major commodities tracked by the AAR, 12 were up on an annual basis in August. Metallic ores were up 16.6 percent, and motor vehicles and parts were up 5.7 percent. Grain was down 17.1 percent, and coal was down 1.7 percent. And the AAR said that excluding coal and grain, U.S. rail carloads for August were up 3.7 percent compared to August 2010.

The AAR also reported that as of September 1, 271,404 freight cars were in storage, which represents 5,539 fewer cars than August 1. 

For the week ending September 3, the AAR said that carload volumes—at 303,260—were down 0.4 percent annually. Intermodal—at 233,941 trailers and containers—was down 1.3 percent

Metallic ores led commodity gains for the week with a 24.5 percent increase year-over-year, and farm products excluding grain were down 23.9 percent.

Carload volume in the East was down 0.8 percent for the week and out West it was down 0.2 percent compared to the same week a year ago.

Through the first 35 weeks of 2011, the AAR said cumulative carload volume—at 10,133,479—was up 1.9 percent, and trailers and containers—at 7,931,620—was up 5.8 percent.


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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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