Thursday, November 07, 2013

AAR: Freight traffic up in latest week, month

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U.S. freight traffic continued gaining ground in the week ending Nov. 2, 2013, the Association of American Railroads reported Thursday, Nov. 7, capping significant and sustained gains registered during the month of October.

U.S. freight carload traffic for the week ending Nov. 2 was up 5.1% measured against the comparable weekin 2012, while U.S. intermodal volume roared ahead 17.1%. last week, up 5.1 percent compared with the same week last year, while intermodal Total U.S. rail traffic was up 10.8%. AAR noted rail traffic in the comparable week of 2012 was affected by Superstorm Sandy, which hammered the U.S. Northeast.

Eight of the 10 carload commodity groups tracked by AAR on a weekly basis posted increases compared with the same week in 2012, led by nonmetallic minerals and products, up 18.6%, motor vehicles and parts, up 15.9%, and petroleum and petroleum products, up 12.6%. Declining commodities included farm and food products, excluding grain, down 3.3%, and coal, down 1.2%.

Canadian freight carload volume for the week, presumably less affected by Superstorm Sandy, also rose strongly, up 6.8% compared to the same week in 2012. Canadian intermodal volume rose 8.3%. Mexican freight carload volume, by contrast, slipped 0.4% for the week compared with a year ago, and Mexican intermodal also fell, down 15.0%.

Combined North American freight carload volume for the first 44 weeks of 2013 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads totaled 16,525,483 carloads, up 0.2% compared with the same point last year and moving North American into the plus column for 2013 to date. Combined North American intermodal volume was up 3.9% compared with the comparable period of one year ago.

AAR noted U.S. freight carload traffic for the month of October gained 1.5% over October 2012 traffic, while U.S. intermodal volume for the month rose 6.8%. AAR said the weekly average of 263,520 intermodal units during the month "was the highest weekly average for any month in history."

Fifteen of the 20 commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw year-over-year carload increases in October 2013 compared with October 2012. Grain, up 9.3%, led the commodity groups, while petroleum and petroleum products also did well, up 14.2%. Coal slipped 5.4% from October 2012 levels. Excluding coal and grain, U.S. carloads in October 2013 were up 5.6%.

"There's been some concern lately that the recovery may be running out of steam. Rail traffic data for October doesn't seem to support that," said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. "A number of economically sensitive commodities, like lumber, autos, and chemicals, saw higher traffic volumes in October. The sharp increase in grain carloadings is a welcome change and points to the cooperative relationship railroads have established with their partners in the agricultural community."