North America’s major railroads hauled more motor vehicles and other types of large equipment in the last half of September than any other time this year, as volume keeps rising in a key cargo group that helps drive many other types of factory shipments.
The seven Class I carriers and some smaller U.S. and Mexican rail lines that report their totals to the Association of American Railroads originated 23,327 railcar loads of vehicles/equipment in the week ending Oct. 2, and 23,041 in the week ending Sept. 25.
Until now, they had not picked up 23,000 carloads of automobiles and other equipment during any week of this year. The latest volume is also the highest since 24,053 in the week of Dec. 19, 2009, but the combined total of the latest three weeks of vehicle traffic in September outpaced the shipment surge ahead of last Christmas.
By The Numbers: U.S. Rail Cargo.
The recent strength in rail hauls of vehicles made that the fourth-strongest non-intermodal shipment category for the continent’s major railroads.
But the vehicle/equipment cargo gains are also important because they tie into so many other areas of the North American industrial base.
Manufacturers of autos, heavy trucks, tractors and other large pieces of equipment pull in large amounts of raw materials and semi-finished goods, including chemicals, metal ores and scrap, and metal products.
While those categories move at different times they have all generally been rising in recent months. Major railroads’ latest level of chemical shipments, for instance, is the highest since April, and, although metal ore hauls slowed in the last three weeks, their September totals were the strongest of the year.
The AAR said carloadings of motor vehicles and equipment were 33 percent ahead of 2009 for the 39 weeks through Oct. 2, with sharp gains earlier this year in comparison with very weak shipment levels from the first half of 2009.
Now, the growth rate has slowed because the volume comparisons are against a growth period from last year’s second half; still, the latest two weeks of vehicle shipment levels were up 10 percent and 12.9 percent from the same weeks last year.
-- Contact John D. Boyd at email@example.com.