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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

AAR: U.S. rail traffic ramped back up in week 8

U.S. rail traffic rebounded in the week ending Feb. 22. U.S. railroads originated 281,678 carloads, up 1.3 percent, and 253,358 intermodal loads, up 6.4 percent compared with volumes from the same week last year, according to the Association of American Railroads.

Total combined U.S. weekly traffic rose 3.7 percent to 535,036 units and six of 10 carload commodity groups posted gains, including grain at 29.7 percent. Coal loads declined 3.9 percent and industrial products (IP) volume decreased 5 percent.

Metallic ore carloads, which account for 16 percent of U.S. roads' IP traffic, have declined 20 percent so far in the first quarter — the primary reason for soft IP volume, said Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc. analysts in their weekly "Rail Flash" report. Stone, clay and glass carloads, which generate 10 percent of IP volume, are the only industrial sector on the plus side so far in the quarter, up 2 percent, they said.

"The industrial weakness has been broad-based in terms of railroads, as well, with only Union Pacific showing year-over-year growth in the first quarter at 6 percent," Baird analysts said.

For the week ending Feb. 22, Canadian railroads reported 70,152 carloads, down 9.8 percent, and 53,162 intermodal units, up 3.5 percent year over year. Mexican railroads' weekly carloads fell 2 percent to 16,003 carloads and their intermodal volume slipped 1.4 percent to 10,818 intermodal units.

Through 2014's first eight weeks, 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads handled 2,840,547 carloads, down 1.9 percent, and 2,397,095 containers and trailers, up 0.5 percent compared with the same 2013 period.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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