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January U.S., Canadian freight traffic mirrors 2001's downhill slide; TFM's carloads creep up


U.S. freight railroads hardly started 2002 with a bang. As carload traffic in January dropped 3.1 percent (50,455 carloads) compared with January 2001, it was more like a whimper, continuing last year's downward traffic trend, according to Association of American Railroads data released Feb. 7.
Carloads of metallic ores dropped 21 percent; metals and metal products, 10 percent; and chemicals, 4 percent, compared with a similar 2001 period.
"The consensus view appears to be that more vigorous economic growth will return by the middle of this year," said AAR Vice President Craig Rockey in a prepared statement. "We all hope that happens, and if it does, we can expect an improvement in rail carloadings."
U.S. intermodal rail traffic also declined last month, dropping 4.1 percent (33,677 trailers and containers) compared with last year. And last month's total volume of 137.1 billion ton-miles dipped 1.7 percent.
Meanwhile, Canadian carload traffic also began 2002 in downshift mode, last month dropping 7.3 percent (22,711 carloads) compared with the same 2001 period.
Coal carloads plummeted 21.2 percent (9,744 carloads), while grain carloads plunged 19.5 percent (9,530 carloads) and farm products excluding grain nose-dived a whopping 52.2 percent (5,766 carloads).
Canadian intermodal traffic also dropped in January, off 3.5 percent (5,719 units) compared with last year.
On a combined cumulative-volume basis, 18 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads last month recorded 1,850,405 carloads, down 3.8 percent (73,166 carloads), and 943,159 trailers and containers, off 4 percent (39,396 trailers and containers) compared with January 2001.
However, the carload-traffic news was much more encouraging south of the U.S. border — TFM S.A. de C.V. through four weeks ending Jan. 26 increased carloads 8.8 percent (2,308 carloads) and significantly raised intermodal originations 23.8 percent (1,719 trailers and containers) compared with the same 2001 period.
TFM also increased total carloads 7.1 percent (2,862 carloads) and total intermodal traffic 2.3 percent (258 carloads).

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