Small railroads at mid-June posted their highest load volumes of 2011 for intermodal containers or trailers, stone aggregate used in construction and ores needed for metal production.
The RMI RailConnect report, which covers 338 short lines in the U.S. and Canada, said they originated 106,581 shipments of all types in the week ending June 18, up 2.8 percent from a week earlier and the strongest level since April 2.
The intermodal pickup at small carriers is in line with trends reported by major railroads and intermodal providers, who say traffic is improving again after a springtime lull.
But several bulk carload categories are enjoying a traffic bounce this month, reflecting some renewed demand from both the construction and factory sectors.
While spring and summer are prime construction times for road crews and for site preparation in commercial building, until this month the RMI-reporting lines had seen choppy demand for aggregate materials. However, short lines hauled their largest aggregate loads of the year in the past two weeks. And while their lumber loadings remain below April peaks, lumber carloads have strengthened since early May.
Ore loadings have topped 3,000 units for the RMI carriers every week in June, something that had not occurred since March. Ore demand rises when metal furnaces need that raw material to make new metal slab or sheet that can be formed into equipment including automobiles and appliances. Short lines have increased their hauls of scrap metal, which is often recycled along with higher-cost ores to form new metals, in recent weeks.