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Rail News: Intermodal

Second-highest carload count still adds up to year-over-year loss for U.S. roads, AAR says

The Association of American Railroads' (AAR) traffic figures are in for 2007. The good news? U.S. railroads originated the second-most carloads on record. The bad news? They have to compare '07 traffic with the record-setting year — 2006 — meaning carloads finished in the red.

For the full year, U.S. roads originated 16.95 million carloads, down 2.5 percent compared with 2006's total. Although coal carloads clocked in at 7.2 million units and accounted for 43 percent of all traffic, the segment declined 0.9 percent year over year. Only seven of 19 commodity categories tracked by the AAR posted gains. Total volume dropped 1 percent to an estimated at 1.76 trillion ton-miles.

"It's not surprising that U.S. rail traffic in 2007 was down from the record-setting level of 2006, given the well-documented problems the U.S. economy has been facing," said AAR Vice President Craig Rockey in a prepared statement. "The difficulties in the housing and automotive sectors in 2007 were clearly reflected in reduced rail carloadings in several commodity categories."

Intermodal traffic ended on a sour note, too. U.S. railroads handled a total of 12 million containers and trailers, representing a 2.1 percent decline compared with 2006's total.

In December, U.S. roads’ originated carloads declined 2.6 percent to 1.2 million units and intermodal volume tumbled 2.5 percent to 867,386 units compared with 2006 figures. And in the fourth quarter, the railroads' carloads remained flat at 4.2 million units while intermodal loads decreased 2.5 percent to 3 million units compared with 2006's total.

Meanwhile, Canadian railroads capped off a banner '07. Their carloads increased 0.5 percent to 4 million units and intermodal volume rose 3.5 percent to 2.4 million units compared with 2006 totals.

In the fourth quarter, Canadian railroads logged 1 million carloads, up 5 percent, and 627,194 intermodal loads, up 5.5 percent year over year. In December, their carloads increased 1.3 percent to 280,154 units and intermodal volume went up 2.6 percent to 171,627 units compared with 2006 figures.

On a combined cumulative-volume basis, 13 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads last year originated 20.1 million carloads, down 1.9 percent, and 14.5 million containers and trailers, down 1.2 percent year over year.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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