Major North American railroads, shaking off the doldrums that slowed freight traffic during the spring, had their largest intermodal volume this year during the week ending June 11.
Class I carriers and large regional railroads across North America originated 295,891 intermodal containers and trailers combined in the latest week, according to the Association of American Railroads. The previous high this year was 291,746 units in week ending May 21.
For major U.S. railroads only, the 237,422 intermodal boxes they picked up in the June 11 week topped the previous 2011 peak in the week ending May 28, when they handled 234,668 shipments and was 6.4 percent better than the same week a year ago.
Small railroads also are seeing their intermodal traffic improve. The RMI RailConnect said 338 North American short lines loaded 8,145 intermodal units in the latest week, the most since the week ending March 5.
Those reports continue a buildup toward the busy summer season for box shipments on railroads, ahead of traditional autumn peaks first in ocean import traffic and then in rail intermodal loadings. It also continues a pattern from mid-May, when major railroads and short line carriers saw intermodal volume pick up again after cooling in April.
During this same period, bulk railcar loadings of commodities and large cargoes including finished vehicles have continued to trail their springtime peaks, in line with a slowed industrial sector as the U.S. recovery stalled. That overall flattening in economic activity in the spring has retailers thinking this year’s peak shipment period may be muted.
Still, except for the week that captured the Memorial Day holiday period that cut into sequential traffic, intermodal traffic for major railroads reached year-to-date peaks in late May and early June. That is partly driven by a rebound in container volume, of which more than half is marine boxes dominated by import shipments.
Large North American railroads loaded 260,530 containers last week, the most this year.
Trailer shipments that involve domestic-only cargoes also have recovered recently. The 35,361 trailers major rail lines handled in the June 11 week was the most since April 9, but still trails the 2011 highs of February.
Contact John D. Boyd at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @jboyd/joc.