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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

AAR weekly traffic report: Steady as she goes for North American railroads


U.S. railroads maintained a steady traffic pace heading into October, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR). During the week ending Oct. 2, they originated 299,394 carloads, up 7.7 percent, and 240,252 containers and trailers, up 16.5 percent compared with totals from the same week last year.

Sixteen of 19 carload commodity groups registered gains, including coal. In the third quarter, coal volume rose 3 percent year over year, according to Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc.’s weekly “Rail Flash” report.

“Given a strong summer coal burn and improved industrial electrical demand, utility stockpiles are returning to more normal levels, which is positive for the near-term outlook,” Baird analysts said in the report. “That said, recent $4/BTU prices for natural gas futures suggest a potential headwind to utility coal demand given the incentive for natural gas switching among utilities.”

Meanwhile, Canadian railroads reported weekly volumes of 78,567 carloads, up 6.9 percent, and 51,598 intermodal loads, up 18.2 percent year over year. Mexican railroads reported 13,982 carloads, up 13.6 percent, and 8,478 containers and trailers, up 13.7 percent.

Through 2010’s first 39 weeks, 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads originated 14.5 million carloads, up 9.8 percent, and 10.5 million containers and trailers, up 15.2 percent compared with volumes from the same 2009 period.

For more AAR traffic data for the week ending Oct. 2 and through 39 weeks, follow this link.

RailAmerica Inc. also reported recent traffic figures. In September, the short-line holding company’s freight carloads increased 8 percent to 72,833 units compared with September 2009 volume. Eight of 12 commodity groups registered gains, including significant increases in metallic ores and metals, chemicals and coal.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 10/8/2010