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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

U.S. rail officials have two reasons to smile about AAR's July traffic data

Maybe U.S. freight roads' recent intermodal-traffic winning streak has finally rubbed off on carloads, which last month rose 2.5 percent (39,786 units) compared with July 2001. And intermodal loads just keep humming along, as U.S. roads recorded their 17th straight week of increased traffic, along with an 8 percent (67,394 containers and trailers) climb in July, according to Association of American Railroads data released Aug. 8.

Several commodities helped prompt the monthly carload gain, including metallic ores (up 32.4 percent), non-metallic minerals (up 15 percent), motor vehicles and equipment (up 6.8 percent), chemicals (up 3.1 percent) and grain (up 2.3 percent).

"Given current fears concerning the fragility of the economic recovery and the possibility of a ‘double-dip’ recession, July’s rail traffic gains offer some encouragement," said AAR Vice President Craig Rockey in a prepared statement.

Although carloads moved by U.S. roads during the year's first seven months were down 1.6 percent (161,240 units) compared with a similar 2001 period, year-to-date intermodal figures show that business segment remains on the uptick: Loads rose 4.7 percent (247,330 trailers and containers) between January and July, including an 8.7 percent container-volume increase (319,135 units).

For Canadian roads, July was yet another chapter in their carloads-down, intermodal-up story: Carloads dropped 5.8 percent (16,723 units) while containers and trailers rose 14.9 percent (25,303 units).

And the tale's the same for 2002's first seven months: Carloads declined 3.4 percent (65,524 units) while containers and trailers increased 8.2 percent (88,357 units), compared with a similar 2001 period.

TFM S.A. de C.V., too, can spin a similar yarn about its July traffic. Originated carloads were off 4.7 percent (2,015 units) while intermodal originations climbed 21.3 percent (2,854 trailers and containers) compared with July 2001.

However, TFM between January and July increased carloads 0.4 percent (858 units), and containers and trailers, 16.2 percent (11,885 units).

On a combined cumulative-volume basis, 16 reporting U.S. and Canadian roads during 2002's first 31 weeks moved 11,927,949 carloads, down 1.9 percent (226,764 units), and 6,625,768 trailers and containers, up 5.3 percent (335,687 units), compared with 2001's first 31 weeks.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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