Railroad shipping: Intermodal leads the way again for weekly traffic, says AAR

Another week, another 2010 record for intermodal volumes. That seems to be the case these days, according to data released this week by the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

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Another week, another 2010 record for intermodal volumes. That seems to be the case these days, according to data released this week by the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

Following the week of September 18, which saw intermodal volumes at 240,013 trailers and containers and container volume at 205,332, the week ending September 25 trumped that tally. Intermodal data came in at 241,167 trailers and containers for a 17.3 percent annual gain and a 2.1 percent decline from 2008, and container volume hit 206,535 for a 19.2 percent improvement—both marking new 2010 records. Intermodal trailer volume for the week ending September 25 hit 34,632 for a 7 percent annual uptick and a 32.8 percent dip compared to 2008.

An executive at a large intermodal marketing company told LM at this week’s Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals Annual Conference that shippers are turning to intermodal more as a cost-effective and efficient alternative to trucking. But he cautioned that as volumes increase, railroads and IMC’s need to focus on maintaining high service levels for shippers.

Carload volumes came in at 300,908 for a 10.7 percent increase from 2009 and an 8.2 percent decline from 2008.

On a sequential basis, this was down compared to the week ending September 18 at 304,679. Carload volume in the East was up 10.4 percent year-over-year and down 10.8 percent compared to 2008. And out West carloads were up 10.9 percent year-over-year and down 6.3 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.

Year-to-date, total U.S. carload volumes at 10,828,835 carloads are up 7.2 percent year-over-year and down 12.3 percent compared to 2008. Trailers or containers at 8,182,454 are up 14.7 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 and 14 were down compared to 2008. Farm products excluding grain up were 63.9 percent, and coke loadings were up 33.1 percent.

Weekly rail volume was estimated at 33.0 billion ton-miles, a 12.6 percent year-over-year increase. And total volume year-to-date at 1,191.1 billion ton-miles was up 8.3 percent year-over-year.


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 · Carload · Intermodal · 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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