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Rail News: Intermodal

U.S., Canadian railroads report carload swoon in June, AAR says

Extensive flooding in the nation's midsection left an indelible mark on U.S. railroads' traffic in June. Their originated carloads totaled 1.3 million units, down 3.6 percent, and intermodal volume totaled 923,031 units, down 4 percent compared with June 2007 levels, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

Only five of 19 major commodities tracked by the AAR posted gains, led by grain (up 5 percent) and chemicals (up 2.7 percent). Coke carloads plummeted 28.8 percent, motor vehicles and equipment traffic plunged 19.1 percent and coal volume dropped 3.2 percent year over year.

"Rail volumes were already under pressure because of the continuing weakness in the economy, but the massive recent flooding in the Midwest made things much worse," said AAR Senior Vice President John Gray in a prepared statement.

During the second quarter, U.S. railroads originated 4.3 million carloads, down 0.6 percent, and 2.9 million containers and trailers, down 2.4 percent compared with second-quarter 2007 levels. However, through 2008's first half, their originated carloads inched up 0.2 percent to 8.5 million units while their intermodal volume decreased 3.2 percent to 5.8 million units year over year.

Total volume through the first half reached an estimated 873.8 billion ton-miles, representing a 1.5 percent increase compared with first-half 2007's volume.

Meanwhile, Canadian railroads had an up-and-down month. In June, their originated carloads decreased 5.3 percent to 302,101 units, but intermodal volume increased 3.2 percent to 193,694 units vs. June 2007 levels.

In the second quarter, Canadian railroads originated 988,447 carloads, down 5.4 percent, and 632,771 containers and trailers, up 3.9 percent compared with totals from the same 2007 period. In the first half, their carloads declined 4 percent to 1.9 million units and intermodal loads rose 4.3 percent to 1.2 million units vs. last year's levels.

On a combined cumulative-volume basis through the first half, 12 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads originated 10.4 million carloads, down 0.6 percent, and 7 million containers and trailers, down 2 percent compared with first-half 2007's totals.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/7/2008