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Rail News: Intermodal

AAR on Week No. 2: Carloads up in U.S., way up in Canada


The year's second week was much better than the first for U.S. railroads. During the week ending Jan. 12, the roads originated 329,997 carloads, a 3.2 percent increase compared with traffic from the same 2007 period, according the Association of American Railroads.

Carloads rose 5.7 percent in the West and 0.1 percent in the East. In 2008's first week, U.S. railroads' carloads declined 3.2 percent year over year.

Traffic was solid in the intermodal sector, as well. During the week ending Jan. 12, U.S. roads moved 238,277 trailers and containers, up 0.3 percent compared with volume from the same 2007 period. In the first week, the railroads' intermodal traffic plummeted 13.1 percent.

Through two weeks, U.S. railroads originated 607,877 carloads, up 0.2 percent, and 402,079 containers and trailers, down 5.7 percent compared with traffic from the same 2007 period. Total volume reached an estimated 62.5 billion ton-miles, representing a 1 percent increase year over year.

Canadian railroads had an exceptional week, too. During the period ending Jan. 12, their originated carloads rose 10.1 percent to 76,357 units and intermodal volume jumped 15.8 percent to 49,814 units compared with traffic from 2007's second week. Through two weeks, Canadian railroads originated 141,113 carloads, up 1.3 percent, and 84,494 containers and trailers, up 12 percent year over year.

On a combined cumulative-volume basis through two weeks, reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads logged 748,990 carloads, up 0.4 percent, and 486,573 intermodal loads, down 3 percent compared with totals from the same 2007 period.

However, the railroads might want to hold off on reading too much into the traffic gains. Year-over-year comparisons in the entire first quarter won't be challenging because of soft volumes in 2007's early going, said Bank of America Securities analyst Scott Flower in the firm's weekly rail traffic report.

Going forward, weak automotive and forest products demand and the "heightened possibility of a recession will continue to pressure merchandise traffic," he said. "Eastern merchandise traffic has remained notably more pressured than western trends."

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 1/18/2008