Shipments of intermodal freight increased 4.1 percent in the week ending July 28 and 1.6 percent from the week prior. Intermodal growth has outpaced truck traffic and U.S. economic growth, and domestic and international intermodal shipments will likely reach an-all time high between now and October, said Larry Gross, a senior consultant with FTR Associates.
Carload traffic hasn’t enjoyed the same success, largely because of the coal slump and sluggish grain traffic. Volume in July was down 0.7 percent from the same period in 2011, after traffic slipped 1.5 percent year-over-year in the week ending July 28 and was nearly flat from the prior week.
“Carloads of some of the more economically sensitive commodities, such as lumber and wood, steel, and autos, gave us a mixed message in July. While lumber related to home construction remained very positive, other manufactured goods either grew more slowly than they have been or actually fell in July,” AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray said. “It remains to be seen if this is just a blip or something more serious."
Double-digit increases in the shipments of motor vehicles, and petroleum and petroleum products, pushed carloads excluding coal and grain up 1.4 percent year-over-year. Coal traffic fell 1.7 percent compared to July 2011, while grain traffic plummeted 10 percent in the same period.
For the first 30 weeks of 2012, U.S. intermodal traffic rose 3.6 percent; carload traffic fell 2.6 percent in the same period.
Canadian intermodal volume in the week ending July 28 rose 8.2 percent year-over-year, and carload volume fell 1.4 percent in the same period. So far this year, Canadian intermodal volume is up 7.2 percent year-over-year, and carload traffic is up 3.2 percent.
Mexican intermodal volume last week jumped 20.8 percent year-over-year, and carload traffic rose 1.7 percent in the same period. In the first 30 weeks of 2012, intermodal traffic rose 18 percent from the same period in 2011, but carload volume fell 1.2 percent.