Last week, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported weekly rail carload volume set a new 2010 record and that was the second record-breaking week in a row.
The AAR calculated that intermodal traffic totaled 237,006 trailers and containers an increase of 18 percent from the same week in 2009, and likewise, up 18 percent from the same week in 2008. Compared with the same week in 2009, container volume increased 19.4 percent, and trailer volume rose 10.7 percent. However, compared with the same week in 2008, container volume increased 27.1 percent, and trailer volume declined 16.9 percent.
(In order to offer a complete picture of the progress in rail traffic, AAR reports 2010 weekly rail traffic with comparison weeks in both 2009 and 2008. The 2008 comparison week included the Labor Day holiday, while the corresponding weeks in both 2010 and 2009 did not.)
Similar gains were reported from both Canadian and Mexican railroads. As a result, the combined North American rail volume for the first 35 weeks of 2010 on 13 reporting US, Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 12,961,920 carloads, up 10 percent from last year, and 9,360,389 trailers and containers, up 15 percent from last year.
For a more detailed assessment, see the weekly rail traffic charts available here, as well as this press release.
Reports about international air cargo are not quite so rosy. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) says it expects international air cargo traffic growth to slow for the remainder of 2010 and 2011, following the sector's rapid rebound from the recession.
According to the IATA:
Peak reductions in inventories came at the end of 2008, when the recession caused a surge in the inventory-sales ratio. After that, business slowed the pace of destocking and, from mid-2009, started to rebuild inventory, which caused the surge in airfreight. Now that the inventory-sales overhang has disappeared, business will only add inventory at the pace of final sales. As a result, airfreight growth will slow to the single figure growth of final sales.
Once again, economic indicators are somewhat of a mixed bag, signaling a recovery that appears to be anything but straightforward.