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Rail News: Intermodal

AAR: U.S. railroads' carloads, intermodal loads drop for fourth-straight week


Unless U.S. railroads catch a break from Mother Nature soon, their January-long traffic downturn might become a two-month slump. During 2006’s fourth week, which ended Jan. 27, severe winter storms played a prominent role in U.S. roads’ originated carloads dropping 5.2 percent to 320,170 units and intermodal loads falling 0.5 percent to 229,178 units compared with traffic in 2006’s fourth week, according to the Association of American Railroads.

During 2007’s first four weeks, the railroads originated 1.2 million carloads, down 6.6 percent, and 879,500 trailers and containers, down 1.5 percent compared with similar 2006 data. Total estimated volume of 125.3 billion ton-miles decreased 5.4 percent.

“Merchandise traffic will likely remain weak through the first quarter, as the housing and motor-vehicle segments are unlikely to recover in the near term,” said Banc of America Securities analyst Scott Flower in the firm’s weekly rail traffic trends report. “Gains in bulk traffic, which is less cyclical in nature, will be necessary to offset softness in more cyclical merchandise traffic.”

Despite dealing with a few severe winter storms of their own, Canadian railroads weekly carloads increased 2 percent to 79,443 units and intermodal loads rose 2.2 percent to 43,926 units compared with 2006’s fourth week.

However, the roads’ year-to-date traffic remained down. Through four weeks, the railroads originated 292,793 carloads, down 4.4 percent, and 164,099 trailers and containers, down 1.2 percent year over year.

On a combined cumulative-volume basis through four weeks, reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads originated 1.5 million carloads, down 6.2 percent, and 1 million trailers and containers, down 1.4 percent compared with similar 2006 data.

In Mexico, Kansas City Southern de México S.A. de C.V. reported a year-over-year increase of 4.1 percent in total carloads (to 10,941 units) and 24.8 percent gain in total intermodal volume (to 4,583 units) during the week ending Jan. 27. Through four weeks, the railroad’s total carloads decreased 13.3 percent to 38,325 units while total intermodal volume increased 12.8 percent to 15,146 units compared with similar 2006 data.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 2/2/2007