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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

U.S., Canadian roads still singing the carload blues


Another month, another carload-traffic decline. U.S. carload traffic in March dropped 6.5 percent (88,214 carloads) compared with March 2001, according to Association of American Railroads data released April 4.
Coal traffic fell 9.7 percent (54,534 carloads); grain, 11.3 percent (10,506 carloads); and metallic ores, 22.3 percent (9,885 carloads), compared with last year.
"Obviously, the steep drop in coal carloadings in March was the primary factor behind the decline in overall rail traffic," Said AAR Vice President Craig Rockey in a prepared statement. "Stockpiles at coal-fired power plants are relatively high, export demand for U.S. coal is relatively weak and natural gas prices have come down."
The following commodities showed March gains: lumber and wood products (9.1 percent or 2,007 carloads); grain mill products (6.1 percent or 2,153 carloads); and crushed stone, sand and gravel (4.4 percent or 3,147 carloads).
Meanwhile, U.S. intermodal traffic last month dropped 1 percent (6,931 trailers and containers) compared with March 2001.
For 2002's first three months, U.S. railroads totaled 4,128,763 carloads, dropping 3.8 percent (165,010 carloads), and 2,166,131 trailers and containers, declining 0.4 percent (8,145 units), compared with a similar 2001 period. Container moves rose 2.7 percent (40,771 units), while trailer shipments fell 7.5 percent (48,916 units).
Total U.S. volume for 2002's first 13 weeks was estimated at 362.2 billion ton-miles, down 2.2 percent.
Canadian carload-traffic news mirrors that of the United States: March carloads dropped 5.1 percent (13,183 units) and January-through-March's 773,920 carloads declined 5.4 percent (44,051 units) compared with similar 2001 periods.
However, Canadian intermodal traffic rose 4.3 percent in March and 2 percent during 2002's first 13 weeks compared with last year.
Combined cumulative volume for 2002's first 13 weeks on 16 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 4,902,683 carloads, down 4.1 percent (209,061 carloads), and 2,618,521 trailers and containers, up 0.03 percent (874 trailers and containers), compared with 2001's first 13 weeks.
Meanwhile, March carloads originated on TFM S.A. de C.V. dropped 9.4 percent (2,770 carloads) while intermodal originations rose 9.6 percent (841 trailers and containers) compared with similar 2001 periods. For 2002's first three months, TFM carloads declined 5.7 percent (5,176 carloads), while intermodal traffic fell 4.1 percent (1,172 units).

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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