Railroad shipping: AAR reports carload and intermodal volumes remain steady
October 08, 2010 - LM Editorial
While no 2010 weekly volume figures were broken, railroad volumes for the week ending October 2 remained consistent with previously solid weeks, according to data released by the Association of American Railroads (AAR).
Carload volume at 299,394 was up 7.7 percent year-over-year and down 10.7 percent compared to 2008. This was down slightly compared to the week ending September 25, which hit 300,908 carloads and the week ending September 18 at 304,679 carloads.
Carload volume in the East was up 1.3 percent year-over-year and down 17.1 percent compared to 2008. Out West, carloads were up 12.2 percent year-over-year and down 6.2 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.
Stifel Nicolaus analyst John Larkin said on a conference call hosted by his firm last month that even with the railroads in recovery mode, current volumes are still roughly 15 percent below the peak, adding that the annual gains occurring in 2010 are against a 2009 which he described as the worst year for railroad traffic since deregulation.
Intermodal, which has been gaining strength for a sustained period, hit 240,252 trailers and containers for the week ending October 2 for a 16.5 yearly increase and a 1.9 percent decline compared to 2008. This fell short of the week ending September 25 at 241,167—a 2010 high.
Container volume at 204,323 was up 17.6 percent and down 5.8 percent compared to 2009 and 2008, respectively, and trailer volume at 32,929 was up 10.2 percent and down 30.6 percent compared to 2009 and 2008, respectively.
An executive at a large intermodal marketing company told LM at last 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.
Year-to-date, total U.S. carload volumes at 11,128,229 carloads are up 7.2 percent year-over-year and down 12.3 percent compared to 2008. Trailers or containers at 8,422,706 are up 14.7 percent year-over-year and down 4.6 percent compared to 2008.
Of the 19 carload commodities tracked by the AAR, 16 were up year-over-year. Metallic ores were up 112.2 percent, and non-metallic minerals were down 9.5 percent.
Weekly rail volume was estimated at 32.9 billion ton-miles, an 8.9 percent year-over-year increase. And total volume year-to-date at 1,224.0 billion ton-miles was up 8.4 percent year-over-year.
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