Monday, July 09, 2012

U.S. freight carload volume sluggish again

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U.S. intermodal volume continued its torrid 2012 pace for the week ending June 30, but U.S. freight carload traffic resumed falling short of 2011 volume, the Association of American Railroads reported. U.S. freight carload volume fell 2.5% compared with the same week last year; U.S. intermodal volume advanced 7.0%.

AAR said nine of the 20 carload commodity groups it tracks gained ground during the week compared with a year ago, led by petroleum products, up 51.8%, motor vehicles and equipment, up 18.5%, and lumber and wood products, up 11.9%. Leading the declining commodities were grain, down 16.6%, and farm products excluding grain, down 16.8%.

Canadian freight carload volume for the week ending June 30 rose 4.7% measured against the comparable week in 2011, and Canadian intermodal volume did even better, up 14.5%; AAR said the intermodal volume was "the third-highest intermodal week ever for Canadian railroads."

Mexican freight carload volume also rose, up 7.1%, compared with a year ago, while Mexican intermodal advanced 13.3%.

AAR, tallying numbers for the month of June, said Thursday U.S. freight carload volume fell 1.3% compared with June 2011, while intermodal rose 5.2%. AAR noted the average weekly intermodal volume of 249,006 units is the highest average for any June on record and the third highest for any month, behind August and October 2006.

Slumping commodities for the first six months of 2012 were paced by grain, off 11.9%, and coal, down 10.7%. 

Said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray, "The recovery in intermodal traffic since the recession has been remarkable and is due in large part to railroads' huge investments in their intermodal business that have improved rail intermodal's reliability and efficiency."

As of July 1, 2012, 317,681 freight cars were in storage, an increase of 4,743 from June 1, 2012, and equal to 20.7% of the North American fleet, AAR said. Total cars in storage have increased for nine straight months, due largely to reduced demand for coal and grain rail cars.