Thursday, March 07, 2013

Late-month rally: U.S. freight traffic up

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Both U.S. freight carload traffic and U.S. intermodal volume rose in the week ending March 2, 2013, the Association of American Railroads reported Thursday, a departure of the split results recorded for much of this year and predominant during 2012 as well.

U.S. freight carload volume rose 0.2% for the week measured against the comparable week in 2012. U.S. intermodal volume continued its strong trend, up 9.7% for the week compared with last year.

Five of the 10 carload commodity groups AAR now posted increases compared with the same week in 2012, perhaps not surprisingly led by petroleum products, up 69.5%. Among declining commodity groups, grain, down 22.2%, dropped significantly.

Canadian freight carload traffic rose 5.3% during the week ending March 2 compared with the same week last year, while Canadian intermodal did even better, up 13.1%. Mexican freight carload traffic advanced 15.6% for the week compared with last year, while Mexican intermodal completed the straight-across win for North American markets, up 15.6%.

Combined North American freight carload traffic for the nine weeks of 2013 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads totaled 3,274,238 carloads, down 2.3% compared with the same point last year. Combined North American intermodal volume was up 7.2%.

Noting the overall mixed results for U.S. freight traffic so far this year, extending through February, AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray said, "Rail intermodal traffic continues to grow. In February, year-over-year intermodal volume on U.S. railroads rose for the 39th straight week, and February saw the first double-digit year-over-year increase in two years. "

Gray added, "Shippers find intermodal appealing for a lot of reasons, including fuel savings, higher trucking costs, and service that has become much better in recent years."