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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

AAR weekly report: U.S. railroads off to rocky start in 2010


After registering their lowest annual carload total since 1988, U.S. railroads got off to a very slow traffic start in 2010. During the year’s first full week ending Jan. 9, they originated 236,796 carloads, down 12.4 percent, and 196,788 intermodal loads, down 3.6 percent compared with figures from the same period last year, according to the Association of American Railroads. Total estimated volume of 25.5 billion ton-miles dropped 12.4 percent.

Coal remained a “significant laggard” to traffic volumes, according to Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc.’s weekly rail traffic report. But “recent cold weather will aid in working down electrical power plant inventories, which remain near historical highs,” the report states.

Meanwhile, Canadian and Mexican railroads started the year on a good note. Canadian roads’ week No. 1 carloads increased 20.4 percent to 67,333 units and intermodal volume rose 0.2 percent to 43,033 units, while Mexican roads’ carloads jumped 32.1 percent to 12,123 units and intermodal loads soared 44.4 percent to 5,722 units.

However, U.S. and Canadian regionals and short lines continued to struggle after a trying 2009. During the week ending Jan. 9, 336 small railroads handled 82,306 carloads, down 9.3 percent year over year, according to RMI’s RailConnect Index of Short Line Traffic. Coal carloads tumbled 35 percent to 9,651 units while intermodal loads plunged 33.4 percent to 5,256 units.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 1/15/2010