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Railroad shipping: AAR reports steady volume gains for week ending October 8

By Staff
October 14, 2011

Rail traffic was up for the week ending October 7, according to data released by the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

Carload volume—at 302,500—was up 2.1 percent annually and was behind the week ending October 1, which hit 312,170 carloads, and is the highest weekly carload mark for 2011, according to AAR data. The prior two weeks hit 305,133 and 305,905, respectively.

Eastern carloads were up 2.2 percent, and out west carloads were up 2.2 percent. On a year-to-date basis, carloads—at 11,631,650—are up 1.8 percent.

Intermodal volumes at 241,999 trailers and containers were down from the week ending October 1, which hit 250,864 for the highest weekly total for 2011 and highest weekly tally since week 39 of 2007. The week ending September was the previous 2011 high at 248,402.

Intermodal volumes for 9,123,225 trailers and containers for the year-to-date are 5.4 percent ahead of last year’s pace. Shippers continue to turn to intermodal as an alternative to trucking movements, as they can see significant fuel savings in exchange for a longer transit time.

Of the 20 commodity groups tracked by the AAR, 11 were up annually. Petroleum products were up 28.3 percent, and non-metallic minerals were up 19.6 percent.

Estimated ton miles for the week at 36.2 billion were up 3.4 percent and for the year-to-date, they were up 2.8 percent at 1,315.4 billion.

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While the volume decline was steep, there was numerous reasons behind it, including terminal congestion, protracted contract negotiations between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, and other supply chain-related issues, according to POLA officials.

Truckload rates for the month of January, which measures truckload linehaul rates paid during the month, saw a 7.9 percent annual hike, and intermodal rates dropped 0.3 percent compared to January 2014, which the report pointed out marks the first annual intermodal pricing decline since December 2013.

Largely leveraging the net positive impact of lower fuel prices, the Shippers Conditions Index (SCI) from freight transportation consultancy FTR made major strides in December, the most recent month for which data is available.

With the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) recently agreeing to a tentative agreement on a new five-year contract last weekend covering about 20,000 port employees at 29 West Coast ports following roughly nine months of stops and starts and acrimonious negotiations, the focus for all port and supply chain stakeholders is firmly on the future.

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