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10/3/2003



Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

AAR traffic tallies: U.S. roads continue intermodal feast, carload famine trend


For U.S. railroads, September brought four more weeks of increasing intermodal traffic and decreasing carloads. Last month, the roads' intermodal loads rose 2.5 percent (19,249 trailers and containers) while carload totals dropped 0.1 percent (1,679 units) compared with September 2002, according to Association of American Railroads data released Oct. 2.

U.S. roads moved more carloads of coke (46.4 percent), grain (13.1 percent), and stone, clay and glass products (8 percent), but fewer carloads of metallic ores (20.3 percent), primary metal products (7.3 percent) and coal (2.5 percent) compared with the same 2002 period.

"In September, 14 of the 19 major commodity categories tracked by the AAR saw U.S. carload gains, compared with 10 in August and July," said AAR Vice President Craig Rockey in a prepared statement. "This could mean that rail carloadings are lending support to the growing belief that we may be on the cusp of a period of more robust economic growth."

During the third quarter, U.S. roads' carload traffic dropped 1.2 percent (50,415 units) and intermodal loads increased 2.6 percent (63,617 units) compared with third-quarter 2002. During the year's first nine months, carload totals dipped 0.3 percent (35,769 units) and intermodal loads rose 5.1 percent (353,646 units) compared with the same 2002 period.

After several months of declining carloads, Canadian roads increased September carloads 1.7 percent (4,397 units) compared with September 2002. But the roads' third-quarter and year-to-date carload traffic declined 0.1 percent (762 units) and 1.2 percent (28,662 units), respectively, compared with the same 2002 periods.

Canadian roads' intermodal traffic was just the opposite: Intermodal loads dipped 0.5 percent (886 units) in September, but rose 3.2 percent (17,170 units) in the third quarter and 7.3 percent (109,781 units) during 2003's first nine months compared with similar 2002 periods.

On a combined cumulative-volume basis through the year's first 39 weeks, 15 reporting U.S. and Canadian roads moved 15,028,652 carloads, down 0.4 percent (64,431 units), and 8,970,484 trailers and containers, up 5.4 percent (463,427 units) compared with 2002's first 39 weeks.

In Mexico, TFM S.A. de C.V.'s originated carloads dropped 12.6 percent (4,533 units) in September and 1.1 percent (3,714 units) year to date compared with the same 2002 periods. The railroad's intermodal originations decreased 8.7 percent (1,248 units) in September but increased 18.7 percent (21,343 units) during the year's first nine months.


Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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