Thursday, May 10, 2012

U.S. freight trends continue, both up and down

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In line with much of 2012, U.S. freight carload traffic for the week ending May 5, 2012 failed to keep pace with 2011 levels, down 2% measured against the comparable week last year, the Association of American Railroads said Thursday. In contrast, U.S. intermodal continued its sustained improvement, up 3% for the week compared with last year.

AAR said 14 of the 20 carload commodity groups posted increases compared with the same week in 2011, led by petroleum products, up 47%, motor vehicles and equipment, up 31.2%, and lumber and wood products, up 23.1%. Declining commodity groups included grain, down 22.7%, farm products excluding grain, down 11.9%, and, of no surprise but still general concern, coal, down 10.1%.

Canadian freight carload volume again did relatively better than its U.S. counterpart category, up 4.1% compared with the same week last year. Canadian intermodal volume did even better, up 9.4%. Mexican freight carload volume eked out a 0.1% gain for the week, while Mexican intermodal roughly mirrored the Canadian gain by percentage, up 9.7%.

Combined North American freight carload volume for the first 18 weeks of 2012 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads was down 1.7% measured against the comparable 2011 period. Combined intermodal, though, was up 4.2%.

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