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Rail News: Intermodal

AAR's January review: U.S. roads boost carloads, Canadian roads increase intermodal volume

U.S. railroads bucked the effects of severe weather and sluggish housing and automotive markets to post a carloading gain in January. The roads originated 1.6 million carloads, up 0.9 percent compared with January 2007's total, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

Grain, chemical and coal carloads rose 14.6 percent, 5.1 percent and 1.9 percent, respectively, helping offset a 33.8 percent drop in coke volume and 23.5 percent decline in lumber and wood products traffic. Total volume reached an estimated 161.7 billion ton-miles, representing a 1.9 percent increase compared with January 2007's level.

However, intermodal traffic fell 3.4 percent year over year to 1.1 million units. Container volume decreased 2.9 percent and trailer volume dropped 4.9 percent.

"Preliminary GDP growth in the fourth quarter was just 0.6 percent, matching the lowest quarterly figure in six years," said AAR Vice President Craig Rockey in a prepared statement. "Since rail traffic is closely tied to economic growth, the economic slowdown is clearly negatively affecting rail traffic."

Meanwhile, Canadian railroads posted opposite results in January. Their carloads decreased 3.1 percent to 360,120 units but intermodal volume increased 9.4 percent to 227,254 units compared with January 2007's totals.

On a combined cumulative-volume basis through 2008's first five weeks, 13 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads originated 1.9 million carloads, up 0.1 percent, and 1.3 million containers and trailers, down 1.3 percent year over year.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 2/8/2008