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Rail News: Intermodal

U.S. railroads remained stuck in carload, intermodal volume malaise in May


Five months into 2007, there still weren’t any signs that traffic is beginning to rebound for U.S. railroads. In May, the roads originated 1.6 million carloads, down 4.6 percent, and 1.1 million intermodal loads, down 2 percent compared with May 2006, according to Association of American Railroads (AAR) data.

The railroads registered year-over-year traffic gains in only five of 19 major commodity categories, including chemicals (1.4 percent) and petroleum products (5.5 percent). Crushed stone and gravel carloads fell 10.3 percent, grain carloads tumbled 9.4 percent and coal carloads declined 3.9 percent.

“While there isn't much to cheer about in this month’s rail traffic figures, we should keep in mind that U.S. freight railroads moved more freight in 2006 than ever before,” said AAR Vice President Craig Rockey in a prepared statement. “Even with the decreases in rail traffic so far in 2007, the absolute volumes being moved by railroads today are still very high.”

During 2007’s first five months, U.S. railroads originated 7.1 million carloads, down 4.3 percent, and 5 million trailers and containers, down 1.2 percent compared with the same 2006 period. Total estimated volume of 721.4 billion ton-miles represented a 3 percent decrease.

The May traffic news was much better for Canadian railroads. They increased carloads 1.6 percent to 405,866 units and boosted intermodal volume 1.8 percent to 231,621 units compared with May 2006. Through five months, Canadian roads’ carloads remained down, falling 1.1 percent to 1.7 million units, but intermodal traffic stayed on the uptick, increasing 1.5 percent to 989,565 units.

On a combined cumulative-volume basis through 2007’s first 22 weeks, 13 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads originated 8.8 million carloads, down 3.7 percent, and 6 million trailers and containers, down 0.7 percent compared with the same 2006 period.

In Mexico, Kansas City Southern de México S.A. de C.V. reported May carloads carried totaling 55,017 units, a 5 percent decrease compared with May 2007. However, intermodal volume totaling 23,186 units increased 10.4 percent. Through 22 weeks, the railroad’s carloads carried dropped 4.8 percent to 238,675 units while intermodal units carried rose 10.9 percent to 93,810 units compared with the same 2006 period.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 6/11/2007