The Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported gains in October 2011 rail traffic compared with the same month last year, with U.S. railroads originating 1,215,627 carloads, up 1.7 percent, and 975,566 trailers and containers, up 3.6 percent. October 2011 saw the highest weekly carload average of any month since October 2008, as well as the highest weekly intermodal average since October 2006. Detailed monthly data charts and tables are available in the AAR's Rail Time Indicators report.
In October 2011, 12 of the 20 carload commodity categories saw increases on U.S. railroads compared with October 2010. The largest gains were: motor vehicles and parts, up 6,177 carloads or 11.1 percent; coal, up 6,124 carloads or 1.1 percent; and petroleum and petroleum products, up 5,018 carloads or 19.4 percent. Commodity groups seeing a decline in October included grain, down 14,904 carloads or 14.2 percent, and grain mill products, down 2,173 carloads or 5.4 percent.
Class I freight rail employment rose to 160,240 in September 2011, up 133 employees from August 2011, continuing an upward trend that began in early 2010. Total Class I rail employment in September 2011 was up 4 percent, or 6,146 employees compared with September 2010.
"While there is clearly room for improvement, October rail traffic appears to indicate that we are still in a slowly growing economy," said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. "Rail carloads of many key industrial commodities - chemicals, steel, petroleum products, crushed stone and gravel - are up, and higher rail shipments of autos and intermodal are consistent with a potential pickup on the consumer side of our economy. Things can change quickly, of course, and the growth rates are certainly not as robust as we would like to see, but we at least appear to be headed in the right direction."
AAR also reported gains in traffic for the week ending Oct. 29, 2011, with U.S. railroads originating 307,900 carloads, up 5.2 percent compared with the same week last year. Intermodal volume for the week totaled 243,774 trailers and containers, up 4.6 percent compared with the same week last year.
Fourteen of the 20 carload commodity groups posted increases compared with the same week in 2010, including: iron and steel scrap, up 23.5 percent; petroleum products, up 20.5 percent; and metallic ores, up 20.1 percent. The groups showing a significant decrease in weekly traffic included waste and nonferrous scrap, down 14.5 percent, and grain, down 5.3 percent.
For the first 43 weeks of 2011, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 12,544,777 carloads, up 1.8 percent from the same point last year, and 9,856,792 trailers and containers, up 5.3 percent from last year.
Canadian railroads reported 80,569 carloads for the week, up 5.1 percent compared with the same week last year, and 51,670 trailers and containers, up 3.4 percent compared with 2010. For the first 43 weeks of 2011, Canadian railroads reported cumulative volume of 3,242,656 carloads, up 3 percent from the same point last year, and 2,074,568 trailers and containers, up 1.5 percent from last year.
Mexican railroads reported 13,969 carloads for the week, down 4.5 percent compared with the same week last year, and 7,372 trailers and containers, down 5.2 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 43 weeks of 2011 was 615,670 carloads, up 4.2 percent compared with the same point last year, and 356,981 trailers and containers, up 22.2 percent.
Combined North American rail volume for the first 43 weeks of 2011 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 16,430,103 carloads, up 2.1 percent compared with the same point last year, and 12,288,341 trailers and containers, up 5 percent compared with last year.
Source: Association of American Railroads
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