Union Pacific Corp. (UP) on April 22 posted record first-quarter results, powered by solid gains in automotive and intermodal traffic. The Omaha, Neb.-based company also saw quarterly volume growth for the first time in two years.
UP said first-quarter net income rose 43 percent to $516 million, while operating income jumped 47 percent to $988 million. The company's operating ratio (operating expenses divided by operating revenues) came in at a first-quarter record of 75.1 percent, indicating that UP spent $3 for every $4 it took in through revenues. In all, UP reported $4 billion in quarterly revenue, up 16 percent from the recession-impacted 2009 first quarter.
Total carloadings, UP's measure of traffic volumes, grew 13 percent over the same period in 2009, UP said.
Automotive traffic set the pace with an 88-percent increase. That was followed by intermodal, with a 25-percent gain, and chemical traffic, up 14 percent. Energy was the weakest commodity, though that was still up 5 percent year over year, UP said.
Meanwhile, weekly carload volumes reported the same day by the Association of American Railroads (AAR) indicated the rail rebound is not confined to UP. Volumes for the week ending April 17 rose 16.1 percent from the same period in 2009, with volume reaching its highest level since early December of 2008, AAR said.
U.S. railroads originated 296,599 carloads during the most recent reporting week, AAR said. However, volume was down 11.6 percent from the same week in 2008, the group said.
Intermodal traffic totaled 209,903 trailers and containers, up 14.6 percent from last year but down 6.3 percent compared with 2008. Compared with the same week in 2009, container volume increased 16.7 percent, while trailer volume rose 4 percent. Compared with the same week in 2008, container volume was up 1.6 percent, while trailer volume fell 35.3 percent.
Carload volume gained 19.6 percent from last year on Eastern railroads and 13.8 percent on Western carriers. Compared with 2008, however, carload volume was down 13.6 percent in the East and 10.2 percent in the West, AAR said.
Eighteen of 19 carload commodity groups were up from last year, led by a 177.5-percent jump in loadings of metallic ores, AAR said.