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Rail News: Intermodal

U.S. railroads register intermodal volume gain, carload decline in February, AAR says


Two months into 2007, U.S. railroads’ intermodal traffic is heating up, but carload volume remains cool. In February, the roads originated 924,905 intermodal loads, up 4.1 percent, and 1.3 million carloads, down 4.2 percent compared with February 2006’s traffic, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

“The U.S. freight railroad ‘factory floor’ is outdoors and about 141,000 miles long, and during February a lot of those miles were under snow and ice,” said AAR Vice President Craig Rockey in a prepared statement. “In addition, a week ago the government revised downward its estimate of GDP growth for the fourth quarter of last year, and it seems that a meaningful acceleration in economic activity has not occurred so far this year.”

During 2007’s first two months, U.S. railroads’ originated carloads decreased 5.6 percent to 2.8 million units and intermodal loads increased 0.9 percent to 2 million units compared with similar 2006 data. Total estimated volume dropped 4.3 percent to 286.1 billion ton-miles.

For just the week ending March 3, U.S. railroad’s carloads fell 5 percent to 322,196 units, but intermodal volume jumped 8.6 percent to 237,606 units — the highest-ever weekly total in a February, the AAR said.

Meanwhile, Canadian railroads continued to register declines on both sides of the traffic ledger. In February, the roads’ originated carloads decreased 6 percent to 287,820 units and intermodal loads dropped 0.5 percent to 172,708 units compared with February 2006 traffic. And through two months, the railroads’ originated 656,879 carloads, down 4.8 percent, and 380,656 intermodal loads, down 0.5 percent.

On a combined cumulative-volume basis through 2007’s first nine weeks, 13 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads originated 3.5 million carloads, down 5.5 percent, and 2.4 million trailers and containers, up 0.7 percent compared with similar 2006 data.

However, overall U.S. and Canadian traffic volumes have made modest strides the past two weeks, led by western coal and international intermodal moves, said Banc of America Securities analyst Scott Flower in the firm’s weekly rail traffic trends report.

“Traffic may [continue to] show signs of improvement over the next few weeks, as the CN network recovers from the UTU strike and winter weather begins to abate,” he said.

In Mexico, Kansas City Southern de México de R.L. de C.V.’s total February carloads were flat at 43,704 units while intermodal units carried totaled 17,331 units, up 8.1 percent compared with February 2006 traffic. Through two months, the railroad’s total carloads declined 7.2 percent, but total intermodal units carried rose 8.8 percent.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 3/9/2007