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AAR weekly report: North American railroads' traffic tune still holds sour note


U.S. railroads are six for six, and not in a good way. For the sixth-straight week in 2009, their traffic has tumbled compared with last year’s pace.

During the week ending Feb. 14, U.S. roads originated 281,533 carloads, down 12.2 percent, and 191,410 intermodal loads, down 12.9 percent year over year, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

Through six weeks, their carloads totaling 1.6 million units declined 16.1 percent and intermodal volume totaling 1.2 million units dropped 13.2 percent compared with totals from the same 2008 period. Total volume plummeted 14.9 percent to an estimated 171.4 billion ton-miles.

Canadian railroads remain on a bad roll, too. During the week ending Feb. 14, their carloads decreased 8.4 percent to 66,488 units and intermodal volume fell 3.8 percent to 43,302 units vs. totals from the same week last year. (Note: Canadian National Railway Co.’s recent acquisition of the Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railway has resulted in some reporting changes that affect current totals and comparisons vs. last year, the AAR said.)

Through six weeks, Canadian railroads reported 373,036 carloads, down 15.6 percent, and 254,591 containers and trailers, down 10.2 percent.

Traffic isn’t any better for Mexico’s two largest railroads. For the week ending Feb. 14, their originated carload volume of 11,688 units dropped 6.1 percent and intermodal volume of 5,596 units decreased 6.9 percent compared with totals from the same week last year. Through six weeks, carloads remained down 13 percent at 63,822 units and intermodal volume remained down 19.4 percent at 27,855 units.

On a combined North American volume basis through six weeks, 14 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads originated 2 million carloads, down 15.9 percent, and 1.5 million containers and trailers, down 12.9 percent year over year.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 2/20/2009