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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Quarterly U.S. and Canadian rail freight traffic figures can't match 2000 levels

While U.S. rail freight traffic registered slight gains in March, overall freight traffic in the first quarter (4,286,668 carloads) was down 1.6 percent compared with first-quarter 2000, according to Association of American Railroads data.
First-quarter motor vehicles and equipment carloads dropped 14.2 percent; metallic ores, 18.2 percent; metals and metal products, 13.6 percent; and chemicals, 5.2 percent compared with 2000’s first quarter. In all, 13 of 19 commodity categories declined in the first quarter compared with the same period last year.
On the plus side, coal carloads rose 7.2 percent; food products, 5.9 percent; and grain mill products, 5 percent in the first quarter compared with first-quarter 2000.
"Coal not only is doing well this year compared with other commodities, it’s also doing well relative to the recent past," said AAR Vice President Craig Rockey in a prepared statement. "Coal carloadings in the first three months of 2001 are higher than in the same time period of any recent year."
U.S. intermodal traffic also declined in the first quarter (2.1 percent) and in March (1.6 percent) compared with the same periods in 2000.
Meanwhile, first-quarter Canadian rail freight traffic (822,560 carloads) — similar to American rail woes — dropped 3.3 percent, while first-quarter intermodal traffic rose 2.5 percent compared with 2000’s first quarter, AAR said.
Combined first-quarter cumulative volume on 16 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads (5,109,228 carloads) dropped 1.9 percent, and cumulative intermodal traffic (2,621,193 trailers and containers) was off 1.3 percent, compared with first-quarter 2000.

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