Weather impacts rail volumes for week ending February 5, says AAR

Railroad traffic for the week ending February 5 was mixed due to harsh weather conditions impacting certain parts of the country, according to data released by the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

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Railroad traffic for the week ending February 5 was mixed due to harsh weather conditions impacting certain parts of the country, according to data released by the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

Carload volume at 267,682 was flat year-over-year and behind the week ending January 29 which hit 291,147 and the week ending January 22 at 282,837. The AAR said that carload volume was up 5.8 percent in the East and down 3.6 percent out West.

Intermodal volumes for the week ending February 5 tallied 198,249 for a 1.5 percent annual decline. It was also behind the weeks of January 29 and January 22 at 222,742 trailers and containers and ahead of the week ending January 22 at 180,888 trailers and containers.

As LM has reported, while volumes are up annually and at recent levels on a sequential basis, it appears the annual comparisons for railroad data will be less impressive than they were in 2010, considering 2010 comparisons were up against a difficult 2009.

But railroad volume appear to be picking up where 2010 left off, and prospects for 2011 look very encouraging, especially in light of recent fourth-quarter and full-year earnings results from multiple Class I carriers, which pointed to continued pricing and volume increases.

Of the 20 commodity groups the AAR tracks, 8 saw annual growth for the week ending February 5, with metallic ores up 33.5 percent and chemicals up 4.1 percent.

Estimated ton-miles were 30.3 billion for a 1.3 percent annual increase, and on a year-to-date basis, the 158.5 billion ton-miles recorded are up 7.0 percent.

“On a year-to-date basis, carloads are 6.4% higher vs. last year and intermodal units are 5.7% higher,” forward wrote Avondale Partners analyst Donald Broughton in a research note. “Coal continues to progress, as normalized utility coal stockpiles, along with improving trends for domestic met coal and export coal should yield weekly coal volumes in the 150-160k range. When combined with the steady rise in intermodal units and the strong volumes seen in chemical and metals, as well as the growing boost from agricultural volumes, we anticipate strong overall volumes moving.”

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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