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North American railroads post traffic gains in 2011


The 2011 traffic counts have been tallied, and North American railroads posted year-over-year gains in overall carloads, and trailers and containers carried, as well as many commodity groups, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

U.S. railroads originated 15.2 million carloads and 11.9 million trailers and containers in 2011, up 2.2 percent and 5.4 percent, respectively, compared with 2010.

In addition, railroads posted traffic increases in 14 of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by AAR. The largest gains were: metallic ores, up 20.5 percent; primary metal products, up 12 percent; and petroleum products, up 11.1 percent. Grain traffic had the biggest carload decline, down 2.4 percent year over year.

“A good beginning, some uncertainness in the middle, and then a good ending—that describes U.S. rail traffic in 2011,” said John Gray, AAR’s senior vice president for policy and economics, in a prepared statement. “We continue to see hopeful economic signs, as the industry prepares for 2012.”

Meanwhile, Canadian railroads reported cumulative volume of 3.9 million carloads for the year, up 3.4 percent compared with 2010, and 2.5 million trailers and containers, up 2.4 percent.

Mexican railroads originated 739,320 carloads, up 3.7 percent, and 436,974 trailers and containers, up 23.7 percent year over year.
Combined North American rail volume for 2011 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 19,822,529 carloads, up 2.5 percent compared to last year, and 14,834,486 trailers and containers, up 5.3 percent compared with 2010.

Railroads finished the year strong, with U.S. railroads originating 1.1 million carloads in December, a 7.3 percent jump compared with December 2010 — the largest year-over-year monthly increase since January 2011, according to AAR. Railroads also originated 873,390 trailers and containers in December, up 9.4 percent — the second-highest monthly intermodal average for any December in history, AAR said.

For the week ending Dec. 31, U.S. roads originated 245,666 carloads, up 1.9 percent, 181,217 trailers and containers, up 8.6 percent compared with the same week last year.
Ten of the 20 carload commodity groups posted increases compared with the same week in 2010, including: crushed stone, sand and gravel, up 35.2 percent; waste and nonferrous scrap, up 23.8 percent, and metals and products, up 15.7 percent. The groups showing a decrease in weekly traffic included: farm products, excluding grain, down 7.6 percent; primary forest products, down 6.5 percent, and food and kindred products, down 6.1 percent.
Canadian railroads reported 66,683 carloads for the week, up 10.9 percent, and 34,787 trailers and containers, up 5.4 percent compared with 2010. Mexican railroads reported 10,114 carloads, down 12.1 percent, and 5,729 trailers and containers, up 22.7 percent.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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