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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

North American carloads slipped in week No. 1; GWI's traffic dipped in December

U.S. railroads didn’t get a fast start out of the traffic-generation gate in 2012. During the year’s first full week ending Jan. 7, they originated 274,862 carloads, down 3.7 percent, and 193,812 containers and trailers, down 9.3 percent compared with volumes from the same week last year, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR).
Only five of 20 carload commodity groups posted gains, led by metallic ores, up 29.2 percent. Grain carloads tumbled 20 percent, farm products volume excluding grain fell 18.5 percent, and iron and steel scrap loads dropped 17 percent.

Although industrial products carloads were flat in week No. 1, solid volume trends in the fourth quarter showed demand remains strong for lumber and wood, crushed stone, sand and gravel, and metal and products, said Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc. analysts in their weekly “Rail Flash” report.

“December’s [Institute for Supply Management] reading of 53.9 reinforces industrial carload growth expectations in 2012,” they said.

In Canada, railroads reported week No. 1 carloads totaling 68,405, down 3.6 percent, and intermodal volume totaling 40,281 units, down 9.8 percent. Mexican railroads’ weekly carloads declined 15.2 percent to 10,857, but their intermodal volume climbed 16.5 percent to 7,166 units.

On a cumulative North American basis, 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads in the first week originated 354,124 carloads, down 4.1 percent, and 241,259 containers and trailers, down 8.8 percent year over year.

For more AAR traffic data for the week ending Jan. 7, follow this link.

Meanwhile, Genesee & Wyoming Inc. (GWI) reported December carloads totaling 82,009, up 0.6 percent compared with December 2010 volume. However, same-railroad traffic dipped 1 percent as overhead coal shipments fell in the Ohio Region, and coal and coke traffic declined in the Mountain West Region.

In the fourth quarter, GWI’s traffic rose 7.9 percent year over year to 246,794 carloads. Same-railroad traffic inched down 0.4 percent primarily because of reduced coal and coke shipments. GWI owns 65 regionals and short lines in the United States, Australia, Canada, Netherlands and Belgium.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 1/13/2012