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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Final AAR report card: U.S., Canadian roads make the traffic grade in 2003


After posting weak carload figures in 2002, U.S. railroads experienced a traffic renaissance last year. The roads increased carloads 1.6 percent during December, 1.1 percent during the fourth quarter and 0.1 percent during the entire year compared with similar 2002 periods, according to Association of American Railroads data released Jan. 8.

And as previously reported, U.S. roads set an intermodal traffic record of 9.94 million trailers and containers in 2003. The roads increased intermodal traffic 8.5 percent in December, 12 percent in the fourth quarter and 6.8 percent in 2003 compared with the same 2002 periods.

"The new intermodal record is, in large part, a reflection of the tens of billions of dollars in intermodal-related infrastructure and equipment investments railroads have made to accommodate faster, more frequent, and more reliable intermodal trains," said AAR Vice President Craig Rockey in a prepared statement. "The 1.1 percent gain in fourth quarter carloadings, and even greater increase during the final month, came after quarterly declines in the second and third quarters."

Canadian railroads also built up traffic last year, increasing carloads 14.9 percent during December, 9.8 percent during the fourth quarter and 1.5 percent during the entire year. But the roads' intermodal traffic tailed off after a strong start to 2003, decreasing 4 percent in December and 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter. Canadian roads ended the year with a 5.3 percent increase in trailer and container moves compared with 2002.

On a combined cumulative-volume basis, 15 reporting U.S. and Canadian roads in 2003 moved 20.2 million carloads, up 0.3 percent, and 12.1 million trailers and containers, up 6.5 percent compared with 2002.

For TFM S.A. de C.V., December carloads and intermodal originations dropped 5.6 percent and 8.9 percent, respectively, compared with December 2002. Full-year carloads also declined, dipping 2.8 percent, but intermodal traffic rose 10.9 percent compared with 2002.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 1/13/2004