Subscribe to our free, weekly email newsletter!


Railroad shipping: AAR says May volumes up compared to 2009 and down compared to 2008

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
June 08, 2010

Slow and somewhat uneven may be the theme when it comes to assessing railroad volumes.

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported that monthly rail carloads for May—at 1,153,675—were up 15.8 percent year over year but down 11.8 percent compared to 2008. May carloads were down 1.1 percent compared to April. U.S. railroads averaged 288,419 carloads per week in May, down from 294,758 carloads per week in April 2010 and 288,793 in March 2010.

And intermodal traffic—at 867,516 trailers and containers—was up 18.9 percent year over year and down 3.8 percent compared to 2008. May intermodal traffic was up 2.8 percent from April. The AAR said that the weekly average of 216,879 intermodal trailers and containers in May 2010 was its highest since October 2008 and up from 209,703 in April 2010.

In October 2009, the AAR began reporting weekly rail traffic with year-over-year comparisons for the previous two years, due to the fact that the economic downturn was in full effect at this time a year ago, and global trade was bottoming and economic activity was below current levels.

While railroad activity is clearly picking up, it is still lagging 2008 and earlier years on an absolute volume basis. And based on various economic indicators it is clear it will be a while more until rail volumes return to the same levels as previous years.

“May’s rail traffic numbers continue to show mixed results,” said AAR Senior Vice President John Gray, in a statement. “Intermodal traffic has now risen for three straight months, but carloads in May 2010 were actually down a bit from April 2010.  Several economic indicators this month, including unemployment, reinforce the fact that the economy still has a long way to go to full recovery.”

What’s more, the AAR’s monthly Rail Time Indicators report indicated that while the U.S. unemployment rate fell slightly in May to 9.7 percent from 9.9 percent in April, railroads hired 1,783 employees in April, the most recent month for railroad hiring data. And the AAR added that the number of rail cars brought out of storage slowed for the first time in several months, with railroads putting just 747 cars back into service in May.

Of the 18 major commodity categories tracked by the AAR 18 saw carload gains on an annual basis. Coal was up 6.8 percent, grain was up 15.3 percent, and motor vehicles and parts was up 58.1 percent. The only commodity up compared to 2008 was the “all other carloads” category, which was up 6.1 percent.

Even though there is a long way to go in terms of a full rebound for volume growth, an industry analyst said things are going in the right direction.

“A year ago, the biggest issue was not just the volume drop but the lack of visibility in terms of how far it was going to drop,” said Anthony B. Hatch, principal of New York-based ABH Consulting. “And it appears with volumes returning that railroads can now plan over the intermediate term because customers are indicating that there is going to be at least decent improving volumes trending towards recovery back to the levels before; they are still well off of the peak but they are heading in the right direction.”

About the Author

Jeff Berman headshot
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. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


Subscribe to Logistics Management magazine

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Get timely insider information that you can use to better manage your
entire logistics operation.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Recent Entries

Join Industry Expert Adrian Gonzalez for this educational webinar on the tenets and the benefits of Closed-Loop Operational Management. You’ll learn how Closed-Loop Operational Management optimizes orders, inventory, and transportation concurrently, and how it is able to optimize large-scale problems on a daily basis.

In a separate conference call following CP’s third quarter earnings release call yesterday, CP CEO Hunter Harrison make myriad convincing points for a merger between CP and CSX and offered up his take in general industry M&A as well.

Seasonally-adjusted (SA) for-hire truck tonnage in September checked in at 132.6 (2000=100) for the second straight month, remaining as the current all-time high level for the second month in a row, with November 2013’s 131.0 now the second best month recorded.

Ahead of its third quarter earnings call this Friday, freight transportation and logistics titan UPS rolled out rate increases for 2015 that are set to take effect on December 29, 2014.

The 'Internet of Things' or IoT is a term that has rapidly taken center stage in business and consumer technology circles, with tremendous amounts of hype in both. Don't be distracted if some of the hypothetical consumer examples of the IoT seem far-fetched; the trend has serious implications for businesses. This complimentary whitepaper takes a look at some of the opportunities afforded by the Internet of Business Things.

Article Topics

News · All topics

Comments

Post a comment
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.


© Copyright 2013 Peerless Media LLC, a division of EH Publishing, Inc • 111 Speen Street, Ste 200, Framingham, MA 01701 USA