Thursday, December 13, 2012

U.S. freight carload, intermodal moves slip

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For the second week in a row, the latest week ending Dec. 8, volume fell for both U.S. carload freight traffic and, more notably, for U.S. intermodal movement as well.

The Association of American Railroads Thursday noted U.S. freight carload traffic fell 1.6% for the week measured against the comparable week in 2011, continuing a nearly yearlong trend. U.S. intermodal volume, a counterbalancing force throughout most of 2012, fell as well, though more modestly at 0.3%, compared with a year ago. Unclear is whether the falloff in intermodal volume was, in whole or in part, attributable to the strike affecting the Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach, which ended Dec. 5.

AAR said 12 of the 20 carload commodity groups it measures posted increases compared with the same week in 2011, led petroleum products, up 59.5%, lumber wood and products, up 18.6%, %/ Declining commodity groups included grain, down 15.3%, metals and products, down 11.9%, and coal, down 9.7%.

Canadian freight carload volume did much better by comparison, up 6.5% for the week ending Dec. 8, while Canadian intermodal also advanced, up 5.5%. Mexican freight carload volume also rose, up 9.8% compared with the same week last year, while Mexican intermodal eked out a 0.9% gain.

Combined North American freight carload volume for the first 49 weeks of 2012 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads was down 1.8% compared with the same point last year, while combined North American intermodal volume was up 4.3%.