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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

AAR: U.S. roads registered traffic gains in September


U.S. railroads ended September on a promising note traffic-wise. During the week ending Oct. 1, they originated 312,170 carloads, up 4.7 percent year over year and the highest total since 2008’s 45th week, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR). The railroads also originated 250,864 containers and trailers, up 4.4 percent year over year and the highest total since 2007’s 39th week.

For all of September, U.S. roads originated 1.2 million carloads, up 1.1 percent, and 949,606 containers and trailers, up 2.3 percent compared with September 2010 volumes. Third-quarter carloads reached 87 percent of the levels set at about the same time in 2006 — the highest year on record for U.S. rail traffic — while intermodal volume through nine months totaled 96 percent of the amount reached at the same point in the peak year of 2006, AAR officials said in a prepared statement.

“Carloads have been closely tracking last year’s levels for six months, and intermodal continues to grow, though more moderately than earlier this year,” said AAR Senior Vice President John Gray. “Rail traffic is consistent with an economy that is probably still growing, but far more slowly than [desired].”

Carload totals were modestly above seasonal levels in the third quarter, led by strength in industrial volumes, which rose 7 percent, according to Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc.’s weekly “Rail Flash” report. Traffic levels underscored underlying industrial freight stability during the quarter despite building macroeconomic concerns, Baird analysts said in the report.

“September volume trends were in-line seasonally, as an above-seasonal end to September offset early below-seasonal trends,” they said. “Overall, near-term volume trends remain stable, consistent with broader stability among domestic trends.”

Meanwhile, for the week ending Oct. 1, Canadian railroads reported 81,837 carloads, up 3.7 percent, and 51,755 intermodal loads, down 0.3 percent compared with the same 2010 period. Mexican railroads’ carload traffic increased 5 percent to 14,376 units and intermodal volume jumped 22.8 percent to 10,407 units.
Through 2011’s first 39 weeks, 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads originated 14.8 million carloads, up 2.1 percent, and 11.1 million containers and trailers, up 5.3 percent compared with volumes from the same 2010 period. A combined intermodal volume of 313,026 units in week No. 39 rose 4.1 percent year over year and set a new weekly record, according to the AAR.

For more AAR traffic data in and through September, follow this link.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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