Railroad shipping: AAR reports volumes are up for week ending November 5

Intermodal volumes at 239,180 trailers and containers were up 3.5 percent annually.

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Rail traffic was again up for the week ending November 5 according to data released by the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

Carload volume—at 298,465—was up 3.4 percent compared to the same timeframe a year ago and behind the week ending October 29 which hit 307,00 and the previous two weeks, which hit 301,864 and 303,363, respectively.

Eastern carloads were up 1.6 percent, and out west carloads were up 4.5 percent. On a year-to-date basis, carloads—at 12,843,242—are up 1.7 percent.

Intermodal volumes at 239,180 trailers and containers were up 3.5 percent annually, which trailed the week ending October 29 at 245,404 and the previous two weeks at 244,389 and 241,999, 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.

Intermodal volumes of 10,095,972 trailers and containers for the year-to-date are 5.2 percent ahead of last year’s pace. 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.

This sentiment was similar at this month’s RailTrends conference presented by Progressive Railroading magazine and independent industry analyst Tony Hatch.
Both Class I and short line executives noted at RailTrends that intermodal continues to be a major driver for traffic and volume growth.

“Truckload carriers that provide intermodal service are going to the railroads to work on developing [corridors and related projects like terminals], because shippers are asking for it,” said Hatch at RailTrends. “Intermodal is running at a high level of precision.”

Of the 20 commodity groups tracked by the AAR, 15 were up annually. Metallic minerals were up 23.2 percent, and farm products excluding grain were down 17.8 percent.

Estimated ton miles for the week at 35.8 billion were up 4.4 percent and for the year-to-date, they were up 2.8 percent at 1,460.4 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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Article Topics

AAR · Intermodal · Rail · Rail Freight · All Topics
Hub Group Resources
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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