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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Through June, U.S. roads show no signs of traffic slowdown, AAR says

At the year's midpoint, U.S. railroads continued to handle significantly more carloads compared with last year. In June, the roads moved 1,607,115 carloads and 1,064,000 intermodal loads, up 4.9 percent and 12.3 percent, respectively, compared with June 2003 data, according to the Association of American Railroads.

Traffic increased for 15 of the 19 major commodity categories tracked by AAR, including primary metal products (18.5 percent), grain (10.1 percent), chemicals (6.3 percent) and coal (3.7 percent).

During the second quarter, roads moved 4,423,298 carloads and 2,750,034 intermodal loads, up 4.8 percent and 11.9 percent, respectively, compared with similar 2003 data.

"The [second-quarter] increase in U.S. rail carloads is the highest quarterly increase since 1995, and the intermodal units originated [are] by far the highest quarterly total ever," said AAR Vice President Craig Rockey in a prepared statement.

U.S. roads' traffic figures are just as strong for the year's first half: Carloads and intermodal loads totaling 8,720,960 and 5,335,079 units, respectively, rose 4 percent and 9.6 percent compared with similar 2003 data. Estimated total volume of 787.5 billion ton-miles increased 5.3 percent.

Meanwhile, Canadian railroads had a strong June on one side of the traffic equation. The roads' 330,461 carloads rose 11.3 percent, but intermodal loads totaling 209,801 units fell 0.2 percent compared with June 2003.

During the second quarter, Canadian roads moved 893,059 carloads, up 10.9 percent, and 559,197 trailers and containers, up 1.5 percent compared with last year. First-half carloads and intermodal loads totaling 1,752,196 and 1,074,583 units, respectively, increased 8.8 percent and 0.2 percent.

On a combined cumulative-volume basis through 26 weeks, 15 reporting U.S. and Canadian roads moved 10,473,156 carloads, up 4.8 percent, and 6,409,662 trailers and containers, up 7.9 percent compared with similar 2003 data.

In Mexico, TFM S.A. de C.V. continues to move more carloads but fewer intermodal loads. The road's June, second-quarter and first-half carloads rose 31.2 percent, 15.3 percent and 3.3 percent, respectively, while intermodal loads during each time period dropped 35.4 percent, 31.3 percent and 18.7 percent, respectively.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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