Railroad shipping: AAR reports volumes are up for September 2011
Intermodal sets 2011 weekly record for second straight week.
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The Association for American Railroads (AAR) reported that carload and intermodal volumes in September were up on an annual basis.
September carloads—at 1,195,671—were up 1.1 percent annually. Intermodal—at 949,606 trailers and containers—was up 2.3 percent compared to September 2010. While both categories were up annually, they were down sequentially, with August carload and intermodal volumes reaching 1,482,570 and 1,179,838, respectively.
“Carloads have been closely tracking last year’s levels for six months, and intermodal continues to grow, though more moderately than earlier this year,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray in a statement. “Rail traffic is consistent with an economy that is probably still growing, but far more slowly than any of us would want.”
Of the 20 major commodities tracked by the AAR, 13 were up on an annual basis in September. Petroleum and petroleum products were up 16.1 percent, and grain carloads were down 18.2 percent, marking the third consecutive month grain was down.
The AAR reported that rail employment figures saw a bounce in August (the month for which data is most recently available in this category), with 1,191 jobs added. This brings total Class I freight railroad employment to 161,107, said the AAR.
In the month of September, the AAR said that rail car owners brought 11,087 cars out of storage with roughly about 17.1 percent of the North American car fleet remaining in storage.
For the week ending October 1, the AAR said that U.S. railroads hit 312,170 carloads for a 4.7 percent annual increase, which topped the week ending September 24 at 305,133 and the week ending April 2, which hit 305,905 carloads, and had been the highest weekly carload tally since the end of 2008.
Weekly intermodal numbers hit 250,864 trailers and containers for a 4.4 percent gain over last year. This also topped the week ending September 24, which hit 248,402. These two weeks represent the highest weekly totals for intermodal in 2011, coming ahead of the previous weekly high from week 39 of 2007.
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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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