Freight Rail Volumes at Highest Level Since 2008

Intermodal volumes on U.S. freight railroads for the week ended May 15, 2010, reached its highest level since the 47th week of 2008, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR). Carloadings also saw gains, with 18 of 19 commodity groups showing increases from the comparable week in 2009.

U.S. railroads originated 290,263 carloads during the week ended May 15, up 16.6% from the comparable week in 2009, but down 11.9% from 2008. In order to offer a complete picture of the progress in rail traffic, AAR now reports 2010 weekly rail traffic with comparison weeks in both 2009 and 2008.

Intermodal traffic totaled 218,206 trailers and containers, up 15.2% from last year but down 6.7% from 2008. Compared with the same week in 2009, container volume increased 16.8% while trailer volume rose 6.9%. Compared with the same week in 2008, container volume was up 0.8% while trailer volume fell 34.6%.

Carload volume on Eastern railroads was up 24.5% from last year, but down 13.5% from 2008. In the West, carload volume was up 11.6% from last year but down 10.8% from two years ago.

Of the 18 carload commodity groups showing increases from last year, 14 experienced significant percentage gains, led by a 140.9% increase in loadings of metallic ores. Loadings of metals were up 82.9%, coke jumped 49% and waste and scrap rose 31.1%. Other notable increases included motor vehicles, up 59%; crushed stone, sand and gravel, up 20.1%; grain up 14.8%; chemicals, up 12.1%; and coal, up 9.5%. Pulp, paper and allied products each declined by 2.8%.

For the first 19 weeks of 2010, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 5,348,826 carloads, up 6.3% from 2009, but down 13.8% from 2008; 3,893,058 trailers or containers, up 10.3% from 2009, but down 8.1% from 2008, and total volume of an estimated 585.9 billion ton-miles, up 7.3% from 2009 but down 10.2% from 2008.

Canadian railroads reported volume of 72,825 cars for the week, up 36.4% from last year, and 48,272 trailers or containers, up 20.3% from 2009. For the first 19 weeks of 2010, Canadian railroads reported cumulative volume of 1,380,562 carloads, up 20.1% from last year, and 847,544 trailers or containers, up 9.7% from last year.

Mexican railroads reported originated volume of 13,573 cars, up 14.8% from the same week last year, and 6,581 trailers or containers, up 18.9%. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 19 weeks of 2010 was reported as 253,584 carloads, up 23.1% from last year; and 121,469 trailers or containers, up 34.5%.

Combined North American rail volume for the first 19 weeks of 2010 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 6,982,972 carloads, up 9.3% from last year, and 4,862,071 trailers and containers, up 10.7% from last year.

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