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Railroad shipping: Intermodal hits another 2010 high, says AAR

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
September 24, 2010

Railroad volumes returned to their recent trend of record-breaking volumes for the week ending September 18, with intermodal volumes on U.S. railways setting a new 2010 record along with containers hitting its highest level ever, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

Intermodal volume—at 240,013 trailers and containers—was up 16.9 percent year-over-year and up 2.4 percent compared to 2008. The previous 2010 high for intermodal occurred during the week ending August 28 at 237,194 trailers and containers. Container volume—at 205,332—was up 18.8 percent year-over-year. And trailer volume—at 34,481—was up 6.5 percent.

Carload volumes came in at 304,679 for an 8.1 percent annual gain and a 2.4 percent decline compared to 2008, said the AAR. Carload volume in the East was up 8.2 percent year-over-year and down 9.1 percent compared to 2008. And out West carloads were up 8 percent year-over-year and up 2.7 percent compared to 2008.

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 rail volumes are relatively healthy, current volumes are still below previous peak levels and are starting to face tougher year-over-year comparisons through the remainder of 2010, given the fact that 2009 was a down year for the rails in terms of volume growth.

Dahlman Rose transportation analyst Jason Seidl wrote in a research note that at his firm’s recently-held transportation conference that executives from leading Class I and short line railroads provided a much needed breath of fresh air by voicing optimism regarding the current state and prospects of the North American railroad industry and overall global economy.

“While they expressed some caution, none believed that a double-dip recession is likely to occur,” wrote Seidl. “Instead, they described a steady and sustainable, albeit slow, recovery, evident in their unique insight into multiple components of the economy and their recent interactions with their customers. The railroads noted continued strength in intermodal and automotive traffic.”

Year-to-date, total U.S. carload volumes at 10,527,927 carloads are up 7.1 percent year-over-year and down 12.4 percent compared to 2008. Trailers or containers at 7,941,287 are up 14.6 percent year-over-year and down 4.7 percent compared to 2008.

Of the 19 carload commodities tracked by the AAR, 17 were up year-over-year. Metallic ores were up 94.6 percent and farm products excluding grain up 19.8 percent.

Weekly rail volume was estimated at 33.5 billion ton-miles, a 9.5 percent year-over-year increase. And total volume year-to-date at 1,158.1 billion ton-miles was up 8.2 percent year-over-year.

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).

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Article Topics

News · Intermodal · AAR · Carload · All topics


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