Freight traffic for most North American short lines increased 3.1 percent in the week ending July 30 from a week earlier, as intermodal and lumber loadings set new 2011 highs.
The RMI RailConnect report, covering 337 small railroads out of about 550 in all of the U.S. and Canada, showed those carriers originating 105,208 loads in the final week of July, the most since they picked up 106,449 in the week ending June 25.
A single week’s increase or decrease may not signal a trend in the making, and some key cargoes including chemicals – the largest category for short lines – remained below peaks of recent months. However, a number of categories strengthened to their best showing of July, besides several having their strongest volume of the year or in several months.
The gains came at the end of a month when purchasing managers said factory activity decelerated from June, to a pace just mildly above a contraction zone. If the final week’s gains in freight traffic continue to build in August, it would signal factory demand picking back up.
RMI-reporting carriers set new 2011 highs last week with intermodal shipments of 8,683 containers and trailers, up 3.6 percent week to week, and with 4,353 bulk carloads of lumber and forest products, up 4.8 percent.
Their hauls of semi-finished metals and related products jumped 8.6 percent from the July 23 week to 9,487 carloads, the most since April 30.
Scrap loadings, which are dominated by metals and tend to rise as smelters use more of it to blend with ore to make new products, increased 10 percent for the week to 5,823 carloads, the most since mid-June. Manufacturers of heavy freight equipment have been reporting strong orders and production backlogs.
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