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AAR's annual traffic tally: 2004 a year to remember for North American roads

Break out the record books. U.S. railroads' 2004 traffic figures reached a number of high-water marks, including a best-ever 1.61 trillion ton-miles, according to the Association of American Railroads.

The roads moved 17,423,309 carloads, up 2.9 percent, and 10,993,662 intermodal loads, up 10.4 percent compared with 2003.

"The vast majority of all major commodity categories experienced significant gains," said AAR Vice President Craig Rockey in a prepared statement. "The top 28 highest-volume intermodal weeks in history occurred in 2004, leading to full-year volume that broke the previous record [set in 2003] by more than 10 percent."

In December, U.S. roads increased carloads and intermodal loads 2.6 percent and 16.1 percent, respectively, compared with December 2003. Fourth-quarter carloads rose 2.3 percent and intermodal loads, 13.1 percent compared with the same 2003 period.

Canadian railroads had a banner year in the carload department, too, increasing traffic 6.7 percent to 3,480,826 units compared with 2003. The roads also increased carloads 3.3 percent in December and 2.9 percent in the fourth quarter compared with similar 2003 periods.

On a combined cumulative-volume basis in 2004, 15 reporting U.S. and Canadian roads moved 20,904,135 carloads, up 3.5 percent, and 13,160,494 trailers and containers, up 8.7 percent compared with 2003.

For TFM S.A. de C.V., a year that began sluggishly ended with a bang. December carloads and intermodal loads rose 12.5 percent and 36.2 percent, respectively, compared with December 2003. The strong finish to 2004 helped TFM increase annual carloads 4.4 percent to 453,660 units and boost intermodal loads 10.4 percent to 195,821 units compared with 2003.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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