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Total U.S. rail traffic moved up slightly — 0.5 percent — last month compared with a year ago, thanks to a boost from railroads' intermodal business, according to data from the Association of American Railroads (AAR).U.S. railroads' combined carload and intermodal traffic last month was 2,028,168, an increase of 9,646 carloads and intermodal units from February 2015.The railroads originated more than 1 million intermodal containers and trailers in February, a 12.9 percent increase from the same month a year ago. However, AAR noted that intermodal volumes in February 2015 were "severely affected" by a labor dispute at West Coast ports.Carload traffic last month fell 10.1 percent to 979,042 carloads, compared with traffic in February 2015.Nine of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR experienced gains last month compared with February 2015. They included: motor vehicles and parts, up 19.4 percent or 12,573 carloads; miscellaneous carloads, up 30.6 percent or 5,345 carloads; and waste and nonferrous scrap, up 15.6 percent or 1,781 carloads.Among commodity groups that posted declines, coal traffic plunged 27.3 percent or 112,620 carloads, last month. Also down were petroleum and petroleum products, 20.8 percent; and metallic ores, 25.3 percent. Excluding coal, railroads posted a combined 0.4 percent increase in carload traffic.Rail traffic, like the economy, continues to give mixed signals, said AAR Senior Vice President John Gray."Coal carloads remain very troubling, intermodal is doing well, and the other rail traffic categories are somewhere in between," Gray said. "After Saudi announcements on energy pricing late last week it is painfully evident that it will take a while for the shakeout in that sector to play itself out," he added. "Until that happens, and until it becomes clear that the disruptions abroad aren't spreading into the domestic economy, rail traffic will remain in an uncertain environment."For the week ending Feb. 27, total U.S. rail traffic rose 2.5 percent to 521,300 carloads and intermodal units compared with the same week a year ago. Total U.S. railroads' carloads declined 7.1 percent, while intermodal volume rose 13 percent.For the first eight weeks of 2016, U.S. railroads logged cumulative volume of 1,947,084 carloads, down 13.5 percent from the same point last year; and 2,088,747 intermodal units, up 8 percent from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first eight weeks of 2016 was down 3.6 percent compared with last year.Canadian railroads reported a 3.5 percent decrease in cumulative rail traffic volume during the first eight weeks of 2016 compared with traffic volume in the same period a year ago. Mexican railroads reported cumulative volume during the eight-week period rose 2.2 percent compared with the year-ago period.
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