The latest data out of the the US Transportation Department and Statistics Canada show volumes of lumber and wood moved on the rails in the US and Canada up slightly for January to October 2014 compared to one year ago.
US Freight Volumes: 2014
Statistics for full-year 2014 truck rail volumes, recently released, show a glowing picture of US imports and manufacturing.
Trucking conditions in the US improved in November, thanks to falling diesel prices and strong holiday freight volumes, FTR reported Monday. The FTR Trucking Conditions Index read 8.98 in November reflecting tight capacity and favourable conditions for truckers. FTR expects the index to remain in this range through 2015 before dropping somewhat.
Meanwhile, US rail intermodal volume hit a new record in 2014.
The Association of American Railroads (AAR) said January 5 that 13.5 million containers and trailers moved in 2014, up 5.2 per cent — or 665,630 units — over the previous record set in 2013.
In fact, AAR has reported that despite some challenges, freight rail traffic showed solid growth in 2014. Total combined traffic for 2014 on US railroads was 28.7 million carloads, containers, and trailers, up 1,233,184 units, or 4.5 per cent, over 2013 and the highest annual total since 2007.
Truck and Rail Transport
US rail carloads were 15.2 million in 2014, up 3.9 per cent — or 567,554 carloads — over 2013, and the highest total carloads since 2008.
Separately, average weekly US rail carloads of forest products in 2014 are up significantly over 2013.
As for Canada’s rail car loadings, US wood products imports from Canada, January to October 2014, by rail improved by 9.6 per cent to 8.6 billion kg (from 7.8 billion kg) compared to the first ten months of 2013, according to the most recent US Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) data.
Within Canada, volumes of wood transported by rail were flat compared to last year.
Canada rail car loadings of lumber products for January to October 2014 dropped a nominal 2.2 per cent, from 8.86 million metric tonnes for the first ten months of 2013, to 8.67 million metric tonnes.
Back to the roads, American trucking executives are more bullish about 2015 than any year since the end of the recession, and they’re putting their money where the rubber meets the road, ordering a big wave of new model trucks, replacing older vehicles and expanding capacity, according to Journal of Commerce (JOC) January 7.
Net Class 8 truck orders in the US broke higher than 40,000 units in October and November and totaled more than 360,000 in the 13 months through last November, according to FTR Associates, which called the near-record surge in heavy truck orders “phenomenal”.
The struggle to find, hire, pay, and keep truck drivers will continue in 2015, as will tight capacity among the largest truckload carriers — despite the large truck orders. Higher rates will pressure shippers to find new sources of capacity and innovative ways to move freight.
Capacity at large truckload carriers, as measured in tractor counts, continued to fall right through early 2013, according to the JOC Truckload Capacity Index, and remains about 17 to 18 per cent below its pre-recession peak in late 2006. The index has climbed for three quarters and in 3Q 2014 hit 82.7, its highest point since 2011. Carriers that were overbooked with more available freight than tractor-trailers in 3Q appear to be in the early stages of adding capacity. But those additions likely will come only where carriers can get the best return on capital investment and can hire more drivers, said JOC.