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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

AAR: June traffic levels suggest still-recovering economy


In June, carloads dipped 1.3 percent while intermodal traffic slipped 1.1 percent from May’s levels, according to the Association of American Railroads’ (AAR) latest Rail Time Indicators report. But on a year-over-year basis, carloads rose 10.6 percent and intermodal volume jumped 19.2 percent — the largest year-over-year gain in a month since the AAR’s traffic records began in 1990.

“While June traffic shows sign of an economy that is in far better shape than it was a year ago, we still have a long way to go to see rail traffic levels associated with a full recovery,” said AAR Senior Vice President John Gray in a prepared statement.

Average weekly container volume in June reached the eighth-highest mark since 1990, “reflecting the years-long trend of domestic freight converting from truck trailers to containers on rail,” according to the report. Railroads also continued to bring freight cars out of storage by placing 3,064 units back in service last month.

Trying to predict the state of rail traffic in the coming months is difficult because there continues to be mixed signals coming from various economic sectors, said Gray.

“On the one hand, industrial production has continued a steady increase over the past 11 or so months,” he said. “On the other hand, the purchasing managers index last month took the biggest dip since the end of 2008.”

Meanwhile, RailAmerica Inc. reported June carloads of 72,684 units, up 11.8 percent year over year. The short-line holding company registered gains in nine of 12 commodity groups, with metallic ores and metals, coal and chemical traffic as primary drivers.

Genesee & Wyoming Inc. reported June carloads of 73,347 units, up 15.4 percent compared with June 2009's total primarily because of metals traffic growth in the New York/Ohio/Pennsylvania and Southern regions, increased coal volume in the New York/Ohio/Pennsylvania Region, and additional farm and food products traffic in the Australia Region.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/14/2010