Major U.S. railroads saw a slight gain during August in intermodal traffic and a bigger gain in carloadings of industrial products, indicating continued strength both from retail and factory customers.
Intermodal volume edged up just 0.4 percent from August 2010 to nearly 1.18 million containers and trailers, the Association of American Railroads said in its monthly Rail Time Indicators report.
By the Numbers: U.S. Intermodal Container Traffic
But that generated average weekly volume of 235,968 units, which the AAR said is the highest average pace for any month since October 2007.
Year-over-year comparisons are getting tougher for intermodal after last year’s strong peak season, and late-August traffic was slowed by East Coast hurricane preparations. Last month’s volume was 4,196 units greater than a year earlier, equal to about 17 double-stacked trains.
The trade group said large U.S. rail lines hauled 4.9 percent more railcars in August than a year earlier of a broad category of industrial products. The shipment gain came amid mixed signals on the strength of the manufacturing base.
That cargo group reflects demand for factory inputs and output of some finished or semi-finished products. It counts chemicals, autos and parts, metallic ores, crushed stone, primary metal products, paper, plus glass and stone products including cement.
Overall carloads of bulk materials and equipment hauled by major U.S. railroads fell 0.3 percent last month from August 2010, but the AAR said that was mainly due to fewer shipments this year of coal and grain. With both coal and grain excluded, August carloads were 3.7 percent stronger than a year earlier.