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Rail News: Intermodal

U.S., Canadian railroads registered carload drops in September and the third quarter, AAR says

U.S. railroads registered carload gains in September's last two weeks, but it wasn't enough to boost traffic for the entire month. During the period, the roads originated 1.3 million carloads, a 0.9 percent decrease compared with September 2006 volume, according to the Association of American Railroads.

In addition, U.S. railroads' intermodal traffic totaling 963,278 containers and trailers declined 2.5 percent year over year.

Although grain traffic rose 6.9 percent, chemical carloads increased 6.7 percent and coal volume inched up 1.1 percent, the railroads posted declines in lumber and wood products (16.5 percent), metals and metal products (13.5 percent), and crushed stone, sand and gravel (5.6 percent) compared with September 2006 carloadings.

In the third quarter, U.S. railroads originated 4.3 million carloads, down 1.6 percent compared with third-quarter 2006 volume. Intermodal traffic fell 3.2 percent.

However, automotive traffic, which increased more than 2 percent, was encouraging, said Bank of America Securities analyst Scott Flower in the firm's weekly rail traffic report.

"Auto volumes posted the first year-over-year increase in at least four quarters," he said.

Through 2007's first nine months, U.S. railroads originated 12.7 million carloads, down 3.2 percent, and 9 million containers and trailers, down 1.9 percent compared with volumes during the same 2006 period. Total volume declined 1.7 percent year over year to an estimated 1.31 trillion ton-miles.

Canadian railroads posted similar carloading results for the three periods. The roads' September and third-quarter carloads each decreased 1.4 percent, and volume through nine months declined 0.9 percent year over year.

But their intermodal traffic bore better results. The railroads registered a 4.1 percent gain in September, 5.1 percent gain in the third quarter and 2.8 percent gain through nine months compared with volume during the same 2006 periods.

On a combined cumulative-volume basis through nine months, 13 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads originated 15.7 million carloads, down 2.8 percent, and 10.8 million containers and trailers, down 1.2 percent compared with volumes from the same 2006 period.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 10/5/2007