Shipments of automobiles and other vehicles on North American railroads jumped to their highest point since mid-April in the week ending June 18, in a sign the auto industry is overcoming supply chain disruptions that followed the natural disasters that hit Japan in March
The Association of American Railroads said North American carriers originated 23,038 carloads of vehicles in the week ending June 18, up 10.5 percent from the week before and the most since April 16.
It was also just the sixth week all year when large North American railroads picked up at least 23,000 carloads of vehicles. The peak week was the one ending April 2, when they originated 24,262 loads of motor vehicles.
The March 11 earthquake, followed by a tsunami that triggered a nuclear power plant catastrophe, hit the global manufacturing supply chain hard, especially in industries such as automobiles that rely on Japanese components. It not only hurt shipments from Japan of finished autos and parts to U.S. plants of Japanese carmakers, but slowed production from other manufacturers that sourced some of their components from Japan.
Auto sales have been soft since then, but J.D. Power and Associates this week forecast U.S. auto sales would rebound in June and grow 8 percent from the month before.
Besides vehicle loadings, the major railroads in the past two weeks have loaded the most metal ores of any period this year, which suggests strengthening demand for new metal production after U.S. durable goods orders rose 1.9 percent in May. Railroads last week also picked up the most iron and steel scrap in a month, and the second-highest volume since April 30.
Their total bulk carloads of 389,694 units last week was the most since April 30 as well. Their combined intermodal container and trailer counts slipped mildly from the week ending June 11, when intermodal hit the 2011 high point. However, the latest total of 294,672 intermodal units was the second-highest in 2011, consistent with a summer buildup on the way to the autumn peak intermodal season.