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AAR: U.S. roads ramped up traffic in April

U.S. traffic data for April shows railroads began to rebound from the trying winter months, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR). Carload originations rose 6.4 percent to 1,481,586 and intermodal volume climbed 9 percent to 1,316,176 units compared with April 2013 figures.

Intermodal traffic logged a year-over-year gain for the 53rd straight month and the weekly average of 263,235 units was the highest for any April in history and the second-highest for any month, AAR officials said in a press release.

Fourteen of 20 commodity categories registered increases, led by grain at 27.6 percent, crushed stone, sand and gravel at 9.5 percent, petroleum/petroleum products at 7.6 percent and coal at 6.4 percent. Metallic ores volume tumbled 27 percent and food products traffic dipped 3 percent.

"As is the case for a number of economic indicators that have shown recent improvement, the key question is how much of the rail traffic increase in April represents a catch-up from the winter and how much is a sign of stronger underlying growth," said AAR Senior Vice President John Gray. "It's probably some of both."

For the week ending May 3, U.S. railroads originated 297,432 carloads, up 4.8 percent, and 267,369 intermodal loads, up 8.8 percent year over year. Canadian railroads increased carloads 6.2 percent to 85,096 units and boosted intermodal volume 12.4 percent to 61,866 units, while Mexican railroads ramped up carloads 7.1 percent to 15,339 units and hiked intermodal volume 30 percent to 10,528 units.

Through 2014's first 18 weeks, 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads handled 6,701,621 carloads, up 0.8 percent, and 5,659,251 containers and trailers, up 5 percent compared with the same 2013 period.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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