Friday, July 06, 2012

AAR: Rail Traffic "mixed" in June, Intermodal at Record Level

by Bill McBride on 7/06/2012 04:34:00 PM

Once again rail traffic was "mixed". This was mostly due to the year-over-year decline in coal traffic. Building related commodities were up such as lumber and crushed stone, gravel, sand. Lumber was up 11.4% from June 2011.

From the Association of American Railroads (AAR): AAR Reports Mixed Rail Traffic for June

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported U.S. rail carloads originated in June 2012 totaled 1,140,271, down 1.3 percent compared with June 2011. Intermodal volume in June 2012 totaled 996,022 containers and trailers, up 49,168 units or 5.2 percent compared with June 2011. The June 2012 average weekly intermodal volume of 249,006 units is the highest average for any June on record and the third highest for any month, behind August and October 2006.
...
“U.S. intermodal originations in 2012 through June are slightly ahead of 2006’s record pace, setting up the very real possibility that 2012 will be the highest-volume intermodal year ever for U.S. railroads,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. “The recovery in intermodal traffic since the recession has been remarkable and is due in large part to railroads’ huge investments in their intermodal business that have improved rail intermodal’s reliability and efficiency.”
Rail Traffic Click on graph for larger image.

This graph shows U.S. average weekly rail carloads (NSA).
U.S. rail carload traffic in June 2012 wasn’t as encouraging as intermodal traffic, but it was better than it’s been lately. U.S. freight railroads originated 1,140,271 carloads in June, an average of 285,068 carloads per month and down 1.3% from June 2011.

That’s the lowest percentage decline in five months, mainly because coal carloads weren’t as lousy as they have been. Coal carloads in June 2012 averaged 114,485 per week, the highest weekly average in four months and down just 6.2% from June 2011. Normally, a 6.2% year-over year decline is terrible, but compared to the 11% to 17% declines in the previous four months, it’s not so bad.
Grains are down due to fewer exports.

The second graph is for intermodal traffic (using intermodal or shipping containers):

Rail TrafficGraphs reprinted with permission.

Intermodal traffic is now at peak levels.
U.S. railroads originated 996,022 intermodal containers and trailers in June 2012, up 5.2% (49,168 units) over June 2011 and an average of 249,006 units per week. That’s the highest average for any June in history and the third highest average for any month in history
The top months for intermodal are usually in the fall, and it looks like intermodal traffic will be at record levels this year.

Earlier on employment:
June Employment Report: 80,000 Jobs, 8.2% Unemployment Rate
Employment: Another Weak Report (more graphs)
All Employment Graphs

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