Short line railroads surveyed by RMI’s RailConnect report had their strongest loadings of ore for all of 2011 in the week ending July 16, an indication of increased demand from factories and metal fabricators.
They also see rising shipments this month of chemicals, the largest cargo group for small railroads. That can also be a sign that manufacturing demand is perking up, since chemicals are used in a wide of products, including plastics, pharmaceuticals and packaging of other goods.
The 336 RMI-reporting carriers cover more than half of all short lines in the U.S. and Canada. Volume in many cargo categories is still lower than earlier this year, but the rise in a few sensitive commodities linked to early factory demand are consistent with a recent increase in factory activity reported by purchasing managers and major railroads.
The RMI short lines originated 104,507 carload and intermodal shipments in the latest week, up 10.7 percent from the same week last year.
The traffic that week was behind traffic for most weeks of June and well behind the April 2 peak of 108,620. For all of 2011, their volume is up 9.3 percent through July 16.
They picked up 4,556 carloads of ore last week, which is in higher demand when metal fabricators get orders for metal products from manufacturers of automobiles, applications and other metal-dependent products. Their previous year-to-date high for ore loadings was 3,505 carloads in the week ending June 18.
Chemical shipments reached 17,604 carloads in the latest week, after 17,508 in the week of July 9 that included the July 4 holiday. Both are the strongest levels since 18,521 chemical carloads in the last week of May, when shippers were moving cargoes in advance of the Memorial Day holiday.
-- Contact John D. Boyd at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter www.twitter.com/jboydjoc