Thursday, September 05, 2013

AAR: Freight traffic up as August ends

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All three large North American nations saw freight carload traffic and intermodal volume gain ground in the week ending Aug. 31, 2013, the Association of American Railroads reported Thursday, Sept. 5.

U.S. freight carload traffic for the week was up 3.1%, measured against the comparable week in 2012, while U.S. intermodal volume for the week continued its winning ways, up 4.2% compared to a year ago. Total U.S. rail traffic for the week was up 3.6%.

Six of the 10 carload commodity groups AAR tracks on a weekly basis posted increases compared with the same week in 2012, predictably including petroleum and petroleum products, up 22.5%. Also gaining ground: motor vehicles and parts, up 12.8%. Declining commodity groups included metallic ores and metals, down 4.4%, and grain, down 0.6%.

Canadian freight carload traffic rose 2.2% for the week compared with the same week last year, and Canadian intermodal advanced 3.2%. Mexican freight carload volume for the week jumped 13.6% over its 2012 weekly counterpart, while Mexican intermodal volume rounded off the Big Three winning streak, up 4.1% compared with a year ago.

Combined North American freight carload volume for the first 35 weeks of 2013 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads was still down from 2012, but modestly, off 0.2% compared with the same point last year. Combined North American intermodal volume for the period, by contrast, was up 3.6%.

AAR stressed that intermodal continues to set the pace for the industry.

"In terms of average weekly volumes, August was the best intermodal month in history for both U.S. and Canadian railroads," said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. "Because the fall is typically the peak season for intermodal traffic, it wouldn't be surprising to see new records set in September and October. Intermodal's strength is a testament to the massive private investments railroads have made in their intermodal operations and the tremendous effort they've put forth in improving the reliability, responsiveness, and cost effectiveness of their intermodal service."