For the week ending Jan. 19, U.S. railroads reported 277,490 carloads, down 3.5 percent, and 249,397 containers and trailers, up 13.5 percent compared with volumes from the same week last year, according to the Association of American Railroads.
Nine of 20 carload commodity groups posted gains, led by petroleum products (60.9 percent), motor vehicles and equipment (19.1 percent), and lumber and wood products (15.8 percent). Primary forest products traffic tumbled 20.9 percent, iron and steel scrap volume fell 17.7 percent, nonmetallic minerals loads dropped 16.9 percent and coal traffic decreased 12 percent.
Elevated inventories and weaker export trends remain a headwind to coal volumes despite easing comparisons into the first quarter, said Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc. analysts in their weekly "Rail Flash" report.
"Coal weakness should persist in 2013, though declines are expected to moderate through the year," they said, adding that the U.S. Energy Information Administration anticipates improvement in eastern coal production in the second half and a slight uptick in western coal production through 2013.
Canadian railroads reported week No. 3 volumes totaling 77,172 carloads, up 13.1 percent, and 53,581 containers and trailers, up 11.5 percent year over year. For the week ending Jan. 19, Mexican railroads increased carloadings 7.4 percent to 14,658 units and boosted intermodal volume 2.9 percent to 9,543 units.
Through 2013's first three weeks, 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads handled 1,058,238 carloads, down 4.8 percent, and 854,088 containers and trailers, up 5.9 percent compared with the same 2012 period.
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