The Association of American Railroads has reported monthly rail carloads in March 2011 increased 3.4% compared with the same month last year, for a total of 1,493,553 carloads.
According to AAR’s monthly Rail Time Indicators report, intermodal traffic in March increased 8.5% for a total of 1,111,301 trailers and containers compared with March 2010.
On a seasonally adjusted basis, carloads were up 2% and intermodal was up 0.5% over February 2011.
“As the economy steadily improves, rail traffic is continuing to make gains as well,” said AAR Senior Vice President John Gray.
“And we are seeing intermodal traffic make larger gains with the ‘containerisation’ trend continuing. Containers accounted for 85% of intermodal traffic in the first quarter of this year.”
March also saw the addition of 1,198 employees, bringing the total number of Class I rail employees to 154,502 nationwide.
As of April 1, 2011, 283,649 freight cars, or 18.7% of the fleet, remain in storage. This represents a decrease of 22,667 cars from March 1, 2011.
March 2011’s carload traffic percentage increase is the lowest of any month since early 2010 due, in part, to strengthening rail traffic volumes in the 2010 comparison month.
Despite that, March 2011 marks the thirteenth straight month for carload and the sixteenth straight month for intermodal traffic increases on a year-over-year basis, showing the continued gradual upward trend in rail traffic.
Coal carloads continue to suffer from reduced electricity demand, with U.S. railroads originating 673,977 carloads in March 2011, up 0.1 percent over March 2010.
In March 2011, U.S. railroads originated a total of 158,240 carloads of chemicals, up 10.2% over March 2010, and averaged 31,648 carloads per week. This represents the highest weekly average for chemical carloads for any month in history, likely due to increasing volumes of ethanol shipped largely by rail.