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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

AAR: North American roads handle fewer loads in February

After a dismal January, traffic remained miserable for U.S. railroads in February. They originated 1.1 million carloads, down 14.5 percent, and 726,343 intermodal loads, down 18.7 percent compared with February 2008 levels, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

Carloadings fell in 18 of 19 major commodity groups, with huge drops reported for metal product moves (52.5 percent) and motor vehicle/equipment moves (51.5 percent).

“Obviously, it’s still a very difficult economic environment out there for railroads and their customers,” said AAR Senior Vice President John Gray in a prepared statement. “Time will tell how quickly the economy recovers.”

During 2009’s first two months, U.S. railroads’ carloads and intermodal loads both plunged 15.8 percent vs. totals from the same 2008 period.

February was a difficult month for Canadian railroads, too. Their carloads plummeted 16.1 percent to 257,165 units and intermodal volume declined 10.9 percent to 164,052 units compared with February 2008 levels. Through two months, Canadian roads’ carloadings tumbled 18.4 percent and intermodal loads fell 11.6 percent year over year.

Mexico’s two largest railroads had a trying February, as well. Their carloads dropped 11.4 percent and intermodal originations plunged 17.7 percent compared with February 2008 totals. Through two months, the Mexican roads’ carloads remained down 13.3 percent and intermodal loads remained down 20.6 percent vs. last year’s traffic figures.

On a combined cumulative-volume basis through two months, 12 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads originated 2.7 million carloads, down 16.3 percent, and 1.8 million containers and trailers, down 15.1 percent year over year.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 3/6/2009