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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Traffic theater: U.S., Canadian roads' monthly carload totals elicit smiles, frowns


U.S. railroads started 2003 just as they ended 2002 — moving more intermodal loads but fewer carloads. In January, the roads' intermodal traffic rose 11.2 percent (87,164 units) but carload moves fell 0.1 percent (2,020 units) compared with January 2002, according to Association of American Railroads data released Feb. 6.

Coal carloads showed the biggest decline at 6.5 percent (43,625 units) while grain carloads dipped 4.5 percent (5,044 units).

"On a year-over-year monthly basis, U.S. rail coal volumes have now fallen for 13 consecutive months [reflecting] continued doldrums in export coal markets, utility drawdowns of coal stockpiles and other factors," said AAR Vice President Craig Rockey in a prepared statement, adding that U.S. roads' carloads rose 4.7 percent (41,605 units) in January excluding coal.

U.S. roads increased carloads of metallic ores 38.5 percent; coke, 19.7 percent; steel and other metal products, 14.3 percent; and chemicals, 5.8 percent.

Canadian railroads also continued the same up and down traffic pattern: January intermodal traffic increased 17.6 percent (28,441 units) while carloads dropped 1.0 percent (3,075 units) compared with January 2002.

The roads moved fewer grain (17.4 percent) and grain-mill product (17.7 percent) carloads, but more metallic ore (12.2 percent) and chemical (7.4 percent) carloads.

On a combined cumulative-volume basis, 15 reporting U.S. and Canadian roads last month moved 1,843,095 carloads, down 0.3 percent (5,095 units), and 1,058,334 trailers and containers, up 12.3 percent (115,605 units) compared with the same 2002 period.

In Mexico, TFM S.A. de C.V. last month increased carloads 21.1 percent (7,362 units) and intermodal originations, 47.2 percent (5,274 units), compared with January 2002.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 2/7/2003