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Rail News Home Rail Industry Trends

8/3/2001



Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Coal carloads down but not out; year-to-date traffic still under a TKO, AAR says


U.S. railroads' bread-and-butter commodity last month became a bit stale. For the first time in 2001, monthly coal carloads dropped — 0.5 percent or 2,612 carloads — compared with a similar 2000 period, according to Association of American Railroads data released Aug. 2.
"Coal … was down from earlier months in large part because of vacation-related mine shutdowns earlier in the month," said AAR Vice President Craig Rockey in a prepared statement. "Year-to-date coal figures are still quite strong."
Through July, coal traffic rose 6.6 percent (249,679 carloads) compared with 2000's first seven months; as did food products, increasing 5.3 percent (13,339 carloads); and grain mill products, up 4.1 percent (10,591 carloads).
However, several commodities continued their seven-month declines compared with 2000's first seven months: metallic ores, 16.8 percent (80,095 carloads); motor vehicles and equipment, 9.3 percent (70,795 carloads); chemicals, 5.9 percent (53,028 carloads); and primary metal products, 11.1 percent (48,153 carloads).
July totals also showed carload declines for metallic ores (27.5 percent), chemicals (6.6 percent) and non-metallic minerals (22.3 percent) compared with July 2000. Last month's lone shining star was crushed stone, sand and gravel carloads, which rose 11.7 percent (9,221 carloads) compared with a similar period last year, AAR says.
"A few days ago, the Department of Commerce announced that Gross Domestic Product growth in the second quarter was estimated at an anemic 0.7 percent — about one-half of a less than stellar 1.3 percent in the first quarter," said Rockey, adding that second-quarter industrial production also dropped a disappointing 5.6 percent.
With the economy still in low gear, U.S. intermodal traffic in July recorded another monthly dip — 3.6 percent (24,721 trailers and containers) compared with July 2000.
Through July, U.S rails totaled 5,038,214 trailers and containers, dropping 3.1 percent; 9,904,239 carloads, falling 1.3 percent or 130,004 carloads; and total volume of 835 billion ton-miles, up 0.2 percent compared with a similar period last year.
For Canadian roads, total July carloads dipped 0.4 percent (1,020 carloads) — and 1.5 percent (27,903 carloads) though July — compared with similar 2000 periods. Canadian rails' intermodal volume through July totaled 1,044,219 trailers and containers — a 2.7 percent rise compared with 2000's first seven months.
On a combined cumulative-volume basis, 16 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads through 30 weeks registered 11,766,681 carloads, down 1.3 percent (157,907 carloads); and 6,082,433 trailers and containers, dropping 2.1 percent (132,316 units) compared with 2000's first 30 weeks.


Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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