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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

AAR August traffic tally: U.S. roads continue to ride 'carloads down/intermodal units up' roller coaster


U.S. railroads' August traffic figures either fell or were flat compared with the same 2002 period — carloads dipped 1.7 percent (23,356 units) and intermodal loads nudged up only 0.7 percent (5,744 trailers and containers), according to Association of American Railroads data released Sept. 4.

Carload drops include metallic ores (18.8 percent), motor vehicles and equipment (11.9 percent), and coal (1.2 percent).

However, U.S. roads had a few carload victories. Coke loads increased 46.3 percent, grain, 6.1 percent, and crushed stone and gravel, 1.2 percent, compared with August 2002.

"It is difficult to detect solid evidence from August's rail carloadings to support or refute what appears to be growing sentiment that the economy, including the manufacturing sector, may finally be on the verge of an upswing," said AAR Vice President Craig Rockey in a prepared statement.

During the year's first eight months, U.S. roads moved 11,294,249 carloads, down 0.3 percent (34,347 units), and 6,563,350 trailers or containers, up 5.4 percent (334,397 units) compared with a similar 2002 period. Through 35 weeks, U.S. roads' total volume was estimated at 995.6 billion ton-miles, a 0.6 percent increase.

Canadian roads fared even worse in the monthly carload-traffic department. August carloads dropped 4.7 percent (11,729 units) — affected by 21.9 percent declines in both motor vehicles and equipment, and coal moves — compared with August 2002. However, Canadian roads intermodal traffic rose 2 percent (3,288 units).

During 2003's first eight months, Canadian roads moved 2,134,674 carloads, down 1.5 percent (33,059 units), and 1,447,792 intermodal loads, up 8.3 percent (110,667 units) compared with the same 2002 period.

On a combined cumulative-volume basis, 15 reporting U.S. and Canadian roads through the year's first 35 weeks moved 13,428,923 carloads, down 0.5 percent (67,406 units), and 8,011,142 trailers and containers, up 5.9 percent (445,064 units) compared with a similar 2002 period.

August wasn't kind to TFM S.A. de C.V.'s traffic ledger. Originated carloads dropped 10.3 percent (3,676 units) and intermodal originations, 4 percent (546 trailers and containers) compared with August 2002. But during 2003's first eight months, TFM's carloads rose 0.3 percent (819 units) and intermodal originations, 22.6 percent (22,591 units).

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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