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Rail News: Intermodal

U.S. railroads remain on slow traffic pace in October, AAR says

Despite the fall peak being in full swing and a minor rebound at month's end, U.S. railroads' traffic slipped slightly in October. The roads originated 1.7 million carloads, down 0.3 percent, and 1.2 million containers and trailers, down 3.7 percent compared with October 2006's totals, according to Association of American Railroads (AAR) data.

Trailer-on-flat-car traffic remained sluggish last month despite "easy" year-over-year comparisons, said Bank of America Securities analyst Scott Flower in the firm's weekly rail traffic report. In addition, weak demand for truckload and less-than-truckload services led to a continuation of excess capacity in those sectors.

"Retail sales reported for October were weak, with warmer weather leading to sluggish sales of cold-weather goods, and retailers are emphasizing inventory control," said Flower.

During 2007's first 10 months, U.S. railroads' originated carloads decreased 2.9 percent year over year to 14.4 million units and intermodal volume declined 2.2 percent to 10.2 million units. Grain carloads, which in October increased 14.2 percent to 137,477 units, have been one of a handful of traffic bright spots the past few months.

"Grain carloadings have been exceptionally high [as] grain producers are rushing to take advantage of record-high grain prices and strong export markets," said AAR Vice President Craig Rockey in a prepared statement.

Canadian railroads had a much better month. Their originated carloads increased 3.6 percent to 403,246 units and intermodal volume rose 4.2 percent to 253,285 units compared with October 2006 totals.

Through 10 months, Canadian railroads originated 3.4 million carloads, down 0.4 percent, and 2 million intermodal loads, up 3 percent year over year.

On a combined cumulative-volume basis through 10 months, 13 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads originated 17.8 million carloads, down 2.4 percent, and 12.3 million containers and trailers, down 1.3 percent compared with totals from the same 2006 period.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 11/12/2007