U.S. intermodal rail traffic volume reached its highest level in September since last November, the Association of American Railroads says, even though when compared to September 2008 levels, intermodal rail traffic declined 14.4%.
AAR’s monthly Rail Time Indicators summary with downloadable report and embedded video summary note that the relative improvement in intermodal traffic may be related to retailers restocking shelves for the upcoming holiday season.
September’s monthly carload data showed a decline of 14.2% compared with a year ago. AAR says weather may have been a factor, since flooding in the Southeast affected traffic across many commodity categories. Lower natural gas prices and the relatively mild summer may also have been a factor in carload declines, since there was a 13.3% drop in demand for coal, the single largest commodity shipped by railroads, compared with year-ago levels.
“The data in the October report gives us some indication that better things may be on the horizon,” said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John Gray. “While some of this activity is seasonal, railroads have taken more than 15,000 cars out of storage between September 1 and October 1. However, we must continue to wait and see.”