North American intermodal growth isn’t just driving volume on the major railroads, with the expanding transport mode boosting traffic 19 percent on short line railroads so far this year.
Volume on the 377 North American small railroads RMI tracks jumped 45 percent in the week ending July 21, according to the RailConnect report. Total volume rose nearly 2 percent in the same week on a year-over-year basis, and traffic of all commodities is up 1.1 percent so far this year.
The jump in intermodal volume on short-line railroads comes as U.S. intermodal traffic in July hit a record high for the month. Like the Class I railroads, the short lines have also suffered from the coal slump, with volume of the major commodity down about 7.9 percent so far this year. Grain traffic is down about 8.6 percent in the same period.
But the short-lines have also enjoyed the same boost in volume from increased shipments of motor vehicles and equipment, as traffic jumped nearly 20 percent year-over-year. The 9.7 percent rise in lumber and forest product volume, along with a 6.6 percent increase in stone, clay and aggregates, bodes well for a recovering construction industry.