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AAR: U.S. railroads register carload, intermodal volume declines in September


Hurricane Ike and economic erosion did a number on U.S. railroads' traffic in September. They originated 1.3 million carloads, down 4.6 percent, and 918,319 intermodal loads, down 4.7 percent compared with September 2007 levels, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

Only three of 19 major commodity categories tracked by the AAR — coal, metallic ores and "all other" traffic — registered year-over-year gains.

 "September was not kind to U.S. freight railroads," said AAR Senior Vice President John Gray in a prepared statement. "Hurricane Ike caused significant damage, both to rail infrastructure and to rail customer facilities on the Gulf Coast, including many chemical facilities. And, of course, railroads and their customers are not immune to the upheaval in the general economy due to the credit crunch."

In the third quarter, U.S. railroads' carloads declined 1.2 percent to 4.2 million units while intermodal volume decreased 3.1 percent vs. third-quarter 2007 figures. The lone bright spot: coal carloads, which rose 4.1 percent and reached the highest-ever quarterly mark for U.S. roads.

Through 2008's first nine months, U.S. railroads originated 12.7 million carloads, down 0.2 percent, and 8.7 million intermodal loads, down 3.1 percent compared with totals from the same 2007 period. Total volume reached an estimated 1.32 trillion ton-miles, up 0.9 percent.

Meanwhile, Canadian railroads' carloads dropped 6.6 percent in September to 298,056 units, while third-quarter carloads declined 4.9 percent and nine-month carloads fell 4.3 percent compared with last year's totals from the same periods. Their intermodal traffic increased 4.6 percent in September, 4 percent in the third quarter and 4.2 percent through nine months (to 1.9 million units).

On a combined cumulative-volume basis through 2008's first 39 weeks, 12 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads originated 15.6 million carloads, down 1 percent, and 10.6 million containers and trailers, down 1.9 percent vs. totals from 2007's first 39 weeks.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 10/3/2008