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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

AAR report: U.S. carloads remain relatively weak, intermodal still relatively strong


In June, U.S. intermodal traffic totaled 1,152,432 units, up 4.6 percent compared with June 2010 volume — the lowest year-over-year increase for containers and trailers since January 2010, according to the Association of American Railroads' (AAR) monthly “Rail Time Indicators” report.

U.S. carloads totaled 1,428,580 units, up 0.9 percent. Through the year’s first six months, total carloads rose 2.7 percent vs. volume from 2010’s first six months.

Overall, 14 of 20 commodity categories registered year-over-year gains in June, led by metallic ores (up 19.2 percent), lumber and wood (up 12.9 percent) and grain (up 11.3 percent). Waste and non-ferrous scrap carloads fell 13.6 percent, primary forest products volume dipped 7.2 percent and coal traffic declined 3.2 percent.

“For several months now, rail traffic, along with other economic indicators, have presented a mixed picture of the economy,” said AAR Senior Vice President John Gray in a prepared statement. “While rail carloads have been relatively weak for the past quarter, largely due to coal traffic being down, rail intermodal remains relatively strong.”

Railroads continued to bring rail cars out of storage in June, returning 2,847 cars to their fleets. At June’s end, 276,236 cars — or 18.2 percent of the North American fleet — remained in storage, according to the AAR report.

Railroads also continued to hire more workers. In May — the most recent month employment figures are available — freight railroads added 745 employees, increasing the total nationwide rail workforce to 157,522, the report states. The workforce expanded for fourth straight month and 13th month in the 17 months preceding and including May.

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More News from 7/12/2011