Thursday, December 05, 2013

Holiday checks U.S. weekly freight traffic

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Though U.S. freight carload traffic and intermodal volume gained ground for the month of November, the 2013 Thanksgiving holiday caused a decline in weekly traffic when measured against the same week in 2012, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) said Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013.

For the week ending Nov. 30, U.S. freight carload traffic declined 16.3% measured against the same week in 2012, which was a non-holiday week. U.S. intermodal for the week ending Nov. 30 fell 13.9%.

AAR stressed that, "Even with the Thanksgiving holiday this year, two of the 10 carload commodity groups tracked on a weekly basis posted increases compared with the same week in 2012: petroleum and petroleum products, up 7.2%, and grain, up 5.2%."

Canadian freight carload volume for the week ending Nov. 30 rose 0.9%, while Canadian intermodal volume advanced 11.8%, measured against a year ago. Mexican freight carload volume rose 4.0% for the week, but Mexican intermodal volume declined 6.6%.

Combined North American freight carload traffic for the first 48 weeks of 2013 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads was up 0.4% when measured against the comparable period in 2012. Combined North American intermodal volume was up 4.2%.

The combined continental totals were aided by strong U.S. traffic gains in the month of November compared with a year ago. AAR said Thursday U.S. freight carload volume or the month climbed 1.3%, while U.S. intermodal volume rose 7.8%. The weekly average of 251,887 intermodal containers and trailers per week in November "was the highest weekly average for any November in history," AAR pointed out.

Commodities with the biggest carload increases last month included grain, up 20.6%, petroleum and petroleum products, up 20.0%, and motor vehicle and parts, up 10.8%. Coal slipped 4.3% during the month; excluding coal, U.S. carloads were up 5.3% for the month.

"U.S. rail traffic in November 2013 saw a big decline in coal carloads that was more than offset by gains in carloads of grain and petroleum products," said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. "Carload traffic continues to be consistent with an economy that's growing at a moderate pace. Meanwhile, rail intermodal volume was extremely strong in November, demonstrating the tremendous value that intermodal has become for rail customers."