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10/10/2002



Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Port lockout ends U.S. roads' weekly intermodal winning streak at 25


The streak is over. U.S. railroads between Sept. 30 and Oct. 5 did not move more intermodal loads compared with a similar week in 2001, ending their consecutive weekly gains at 25.


Of course, the West Coast port lockout had everything to do with the intermodal-volume plunge.


For the week ended Oct. 5, U.S. roads moved 80,952 containers, plummeting 39.6 percent (or 53,182 containers) compared with a similar 2001 week, according to Association of American Railroads data released Oct. 10. The railroads moved a total of 134,319 intermodal units, falling 29.0 percent (54,765 units).


It's no surprise that the hardest hit were the western carriers. Union Pacific Railroad moved 48 percent fewer; Burlington Northern Santa Fe, 39.3 percent fewer; and Kansas City Southern, 23.0 percent fewer intermodal units compared with the same 2001 week.


In the east, Norfolk Southern Railway moved 3.9 percent fewer and CSX Transportation, 0.3 percent fewer intermodal units.


However, Canadian roads' weekly intermodal moves showed no ill effects from the lockout, as Canadian National Railway Co. originated 23.5 percent more and Canadian Pacific Railway, 7.8 percent more units compared with the same 2001 week.


The best intermodal news for U.S. roads is that the lockout ended Oct. 9 and lasted just 10 days, so cumulative figures still are promising. Through 2002's first 40 weeks, U.S. roads moved 7,163,661 intermodal units, rising 4.4 percent compared with a similar 2001 period.


And it might take a few weeks, but the western carriers expect to normalize their eastbound intermodal moves. (Westbound moves remain under an AAR embargo, although that soon might be lifted.)


For example, BNSF moved its first post-lockout intermodal train Oct. 10 at 5:30 a.m. (PST), heading east from the Port of Los Angeles. The Class I, which expects to receive more than 2,200 international containers today at its West Coast hubs, plans to move 12 more eastbound trains from Pacific Coast ports after 6 p.m. (PST).


Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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