AAR said U.S. freight carload traffic for the year was up 2.2% from 2010 and up 9.7% from 2009. U.S. rail intermodal volume in 2011 was up 5.4% from 2010 and up 20.4% over 2009 levels. AAR stated 14 of the 20 carload commodity categories it tracks saw increases on U.S. railroads compared with 2010, indicating a broad recovery across industry sectors. Metallic ores, up 20.5%,, and primary metal products, up 12%, paced the gaining groups. The commodity with the biggest carload decline in 2011 from 2010 was grain, down 27,946 carloads or 2.4%.
“A good beginning, some uncertainness in the middle, and then a good ending—that describes U.S. rail traffic in 2011,” remarked John Gray, AAR’s Senior Vice President for Policy and Economics. “We continue to see hopeful economic signs, as the industry prepares for 2012.”
U.S. freight carload traffic for the month of December also rose, up 7.3% compared with the same month in 2010. U.S. rail intermodal volume for the month was up 9.4% from the same period a year ago; AAR said the volume “is the second-highest monthly intermodal average for any December in history.
For the final week of 2011 ending Dec. 31, U.S. freight carload volume rose 1.9% compared with the same week in 2010, while U.S. intermodal volume was up 8.6%. Just 10 of the 20 carload commodity groups posted increases for the week, led by crushed stone, sand, and gravel, up 35.2%. Farm products excluding grain led declineres, down 7.6%.
Canadian freight carload volume for 2011’s final week rose 10.9% compared with the same week in 2010, while Canadian intermodal notched a 4.5% gain. For the full year, Canadian freight carload volume rose 3.4%, while Canadian intermodal gained 2.4%.
Mexican freight carload volume for the week ending Dec. 31 dropped 12.1% compared with the final week of 2010, while Mexican intermodal advanced 22.7%. For the year, Mexican freight carload volume was up 3.7% over 2010 levels, while Mexican intermodal volume rose 23.7%.
Combined North American freight carload volume for 2011 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads was up 2.5% compared with 2010, while intermodal rose 5.3% compared with 2010.