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Rail News: Intermodal

AAR weekly report: Intermodal loads go up, but carloads remain down for U.S. roads


For U.S. railroads, the good news is intermodal traffic is back on the rise. But the bad news is carload traffic continues to decline — a slide that’s now reached six weeks.

During the week ending Feb. 10, U.S. roads’ intermodal loads increased 1.1 percent to 232,293 units and originated carloads decreased 5.5 percent to 311,720 units compared with traffic in 2005’s sixth week, according to the Association of American Railroads.

Sixteen of 19 commodity groups registered traffic declines, including lumber and wood products, down 24.2 percent; stone, clay and glass products, down 17.2 percent; and grain, down 15.2 percent.

During 2007’s first six weeks, U.S. railroads’ originated carloads decreased 6.5 percent to 1.9 million units and intermodal loads dropped 1.2 percent to 1.3 million units compared with similar 2006 data. Total estimated volume of 189.3 billion ton-miles fell 5.4 percent.

“Somewhat surprisingly, coal and grain volumes are trending weaker year to date, off 2.4 percent and 8.2 percent, respectively,” said Banc of America Securities analyst Scott Flower in the firm’s weekly rail traffic report. “We believe challenging winter weather is playing a role, but note coal comparisons get stiffer as we move through 2007.”

Meanwhile, Canadian railroads’ weekly carloads dropped 0.8 percent to 73,873 units but intermodal loads increased 4 percent to 45,198 units compared with similar 2006 data. Through six weeks, carloads totaling 442,932 units fell 3.4 percent and intermodal loads totaling 253,146 units crept up 0.3 percent.

On a combined cumulative-volume basis through six weeks, reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads originated 2.3 million carloads, down 6 percent, and 1.6 million trailers and containers, down 0.9 percent compared with similar 2006 data.

In Mexico, Kansas City Southern de México S. de R.L. de C.V.’s total weekly carloads decreased 1.8 percent to 10,623 units but total intermodal volume jumped 15.3 percent to 4,037 units compared with traffic during 2006’s sixth week. Through six weeks, carloads totaling 59,942 units dropped 11 percent and intermodal loads totaling 23,529 units rose 10.3 percent.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 2/16/2007