Railroad shipping: AAR reports volumes are up for week ending November 26

Rail traffic continues to positively trend upward, with gains on both the carload and intermodal side for the week ending November 26 according to data released by the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

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Rail traffic continues to positively trend upward, with gains on both the carload and intermodal side for the week ending November 26 according to data released by the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

Carload volume—at 265,304—were up 4 percent annually and behind the week ending November 19, which was at 301,919. Last week’s decline was likely due to the Thanksgiving holiday. The previous weeks were in the 300,000 weekly carload range at 299,591, 298, 465, 307,000, 301, 864, and 303,363, respectively.

Eastern carloads were up 1.8 percent, and out west carloads were down 5.3 percent. On a year-to-date basis, carloads—at 13,710,056—are up 1.8 percent.

Intermodal volumes—at 190,866 trailers and containers—were up 3.7 percent annually. This was behind the week ending November 19 at 243,234, with previous weeks coming in at 244,972, 239,180, and 245,404, respectively. It was also behind 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.On a year-to-date basis, intermodal is up 5.1 percent at 10,775,044 trailers and containers.

As LM has reported, 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.

AAR officials recently said that the “containerization of U.S. rail intermodal service continues its upward trend,” explaining that containers accounted for 86.0 percent of U.S. rail intermodal volume in October 2011, down fractionally from September’s 86.1 percent and August’s 86.3 percent. This period, said the AAR, represents a stretch in which never before have containers accounted for such a high percentage of U.S. intermodal traffic.

And at recent industry conferences, shippers, carriers, and logistics services providers sang intermodal’s praises to a large degree, explaining that it is becoming a legitimate alternative to straight over the road trucking, as it is more environmentally friendly, is capable of handling lanes which are considered one-day trips, and that various truckload shippers are working in tandem with railroads on developing intermodal corridors and terminals.

Of the 20 commodity groups tracked by the AAR, ten were up annually. Motor vehicles and equipment were up 42 percent, and farm products, excluding grain, were down 18.1 percent. 

Estimated ton miles for the week at 31.6 billion were up 4.3 percent and for the year-to-date, they were up 2.8 percent at 1,563.9 billion.


About the Author

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. Contact Jeff Berman

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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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