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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

AAR: U.S. intermodal volume grew for the 51st straight month in February


U.S. railroads in February originated 1,100,858 carloads, down 1.1 percent, and 993,807 intermodal loads, up 1.1 percent compared with February 2013 levels, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

Intermodal volume grew for the 51st consecutive month. However, consistent weather disruptions so far in 2014 have impacted railroads' intermodal networks, causing backlogs, and affected drayage operations, said Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc. analysts in their weekly "Rail Flash" report. Some shippers shifted more time-sensitive freight from rail to truckload given the delays, they said.

In the carload sector, nine of 20 commodity categories tracked by the AAR posted gains, led by grain at 12.3 percent and grain mill at 10.1 percent. Primary metal products traffic declined 7.2 percent and coal volume fell 3.5 percent. Inclement weather also has interrupted railroads' coal networks, preventing deliveries, Baird analysts said. Excluding coal and grain, carloads dipped 0.9 percent in February.

“It would be nice to be able to separate out the effects of the harsh winter on rail traffic, but we can’t do that. We can probably expect improvements in the rail numbers in the months ahead, assuming that the weather and the economy cooperate,” said AAR Senior Vice President John Gray in a press release.

For the week ending March 1, U.S. railroads originated 287,294 carloads, up 1.4 percent, and 257,710 intermodal units, up 3.4 percent year over year. For the same week, Canadian railroads reported 71,203 carloads, down 11.8 percent, and 54,344 intermodal units, up 3 percent, while Mexican railroads reported 14,726 carloads, down 2.6 percent, and 9,455 intermodal units, down 11.9 percent.

Through 2014's first nine weeks, 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads handled 3,213,770 carloads, down 1.8 percent, and 2,178,604 containers and trailers, up 0.8 percent compared with the same 2013 period.