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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

AAR: U.S. carload traffic still stuck in lower gear


U.S. rail traffic remained mixed in April’s first full week. For the week ending April 7, U.S. railroads originated 270,974 carloads, down 7.7 percent, and 231,153 containers and trailers, up 1.1 percent compared with volumes from the same week last year, According to the Association of American Railroads (AAR).
Nine of 20 carload commodity groups posted gains, led by petroleum products (33.3 percent), primary forest products (11.8 percent), and stone, clay and glass products (11.2 percent). Iron, steel and scrap volume tumbled 18.1 percent, grain loads fell 16.6 percent and coal traffic declined 16.1 percent.

Coal volumes remain well below typical seasonal trends, said Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc. analysts in their weekly “Rail Flash” report.

“We expect coal weakness to continue as we enter the ‘shoulder’ months, a time when weather warms and inventories typically build,” they said. However, already-elevated stockpiles will temper traditional spring shipment volumes.”
Meanwhile, Canadian railroads reported weekly carloads totaling 75,089, down 3.4 percent, and intermodal volume totaling 50,454 units, up 1.6 percent year over year. Mexican railroads’ carloads dipped 16 percent to 11,999 units, but their intermodal volume rose 1.3 percent to 7,141 units.
Through 2012’s first 14 weeks, 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads originated 5,199,779 carloads, down 1.6 percent, and 3,964,944 containers and trailers, up 3.6 percent compared with volume from the same 2011 period.

To access graphics provided by ASI-Transmatch that show changes to and depict trends in AAR weekly carloading data, log onto and scroll toward the bottom of the home page.

Meanwhile, Genesee & Wyoming Inc. (GWI) reported March carloads totaling 77,046, down 13.6 percent compared with March 2011 volume. Same-railroad traffic fell 15.3 percent.

The largest decliners: “other” traffic, down 54.4 percent to 3,273 units; coal and coke, down 42.7 percent to 11,354 units; autos and auto parts, down 19.3 percent to 913 units; and minerals and stone, down 9.1 percent to 10,407 units.

GWI’s first-quarter traffic totaled 222,178 carloads, a 9.2 percent drop versus the same 2011 period.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 4/13/2012