Thursday, June 07, 2012

U.S. freight traffic back to “mixed” results

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Resuming a pattern repeated through much of 2012, U.S. freight carload volume for the week ending June 2, 2012, fell short of the comparable week in 2011, down 3.1%, after gaining ground in the previous week, the Association of American Railroads reported Thursday. Continuing its winning streak, U.S. intermodal volume for the week was up 4.1% compared with the same week last year.

AAR said 11 of the 20 carload commodity groups it tracks posted increases, led by petroleum products, up 48.8%, motor vehicles and equipment, up 18.7%, and iron and steel scrap, up 16.2%. Leading the declining commodities were coal, down 11.2%, and farm products excluding grain, down 9.5%.

Canadian freight carload volume for the week ending June 2 also fell, down 7.5% compared with the same week last year, and Canadian intermodal declined as well, down 6.6%. Mexican freight carload volume for the week rose 8.8%, and Mexican intermodal volume also rose, up 13.7%.

Combined North American freight carload volume for the first 22 weeks of 2012 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads was down 1.8% compared with the same span of time in 2011; combined North American intermodal volume was up 4%.

AAR noted that for the month of May, U.S. freight carload volume declined 2.8%, with U.S. intermodal volume up 3.5%, compared with May 2011. The May 2012 weekly intermodal average of 235,662 trailers and containers is the highest May average in history, AAR pointed out, also noting 13 of the 20 commodity categories it tracks saw carload gains in May 2012 compared with May 2011.

Class I railroad employment in April was up by 1,353 employees to 161,876, its highest level since November 2008. Total Class I employment in April 2012 was up 5,099 employees, or 3.3 percent, compared with April 2011, AAR said.

As of June 1, 2012, 312,938 freight cars were in storage, an increase of 4,981 from May 1, 2012, and equal to 20.4% of the North American fleet. Total cars in storage have increased for eight straight months, AAR said.