Railroad shipping: AAR reports July 2011 volumes are mixed

July carloads—at 1,111,682—were down 1 percent annually. Intermodal—at 895,649 trailers and containers—was up 1.3 percent compared to July 2010.

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The Association for American Railroads (AAR) reported that carload and intermodal volumes in July were mixed.

July carloads—at 1,111,682—were down 1 percent annually. Intermodal—at 895,649 trailers and containers—was up 1.3 percent compared to July 2010.

Of the 20 major commodities tracked by the AAR, 12 were up on an annual basis in July. Iron and steel scrap were up 32.9 percent, and metallic ores were up 22.4 percent. Coal saw a 7.3 percent decline, and excluding coal U.S. carloads were up 4.3 percent compared to July 2010, said the AAR.

U.S. railroads added 1,818 new employees in June, the most recent month for which data is available, and the AAR said total railroad industry employment was up 5.2 percent—at 7,813 employees—year-over-year. And it also reported that as of August 1, 276,943 freight cars were in storage, marking 707 more cars than there were on July 1 and equivalent to 18.2 percent of the North American railcar fleet.

For the week ending July 30, the AAR said that carload volumes—at 298,812—were down 2.0 percent annually. Intermodal—at 240,525 trailers and containers—was up 3.3 percent. This intermodal tally is the highest weekly volume on a year-to-date basis.

Iron and steel scrap led commodity gains for the week with a 40.1 percent increase year-over-year, and waste and nonferrous scrap was down 17.7 percent.

Carload volume in the East was down 0.1 percent for the week and out West it was down 3.2 percent compared to the same week a year ago.

Through the first 30 weeks of 2011, the AAR said cumulative carload volume—at 8,650,909—was up 2.2 percent, and trailers and containers—at 6,751,782—was up 6.9 percent.


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Hub Group Resources
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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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