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AAR: U.S. rail traffic still sluggish in 2013's first week

U.S. railroads' traffic fortunes didn't change during the first few days of 2013. For the week ending Jan. 5 — which is considered the year's first week for rail traffic — the roads handled 241,682 carloads, down 12.1 percent, and 178,317 intermodal loads, down 8 percent compared with totals from 2012's first week, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

"Traffic volume was likely impacted by the New Year's holiday, which fell on a Monday and Tuesday in 2013, as opposed to a Saturday and Sunday in 2012," AAR officials said in a traffic summary.

Only four of 20 carload commodity groups posted gains while the iron and steel scrap, motor vehicles and equipment, and coal segments registered large declines.

Coal traffic might not post much improvement this year. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates eastern/interior coal production will drop 8 percent in 2013 versus a previously projected 5 percent year-over-year decline, said Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc. analysts in their weekly "Rail Flash" report. Western coal production is forecasted to be flat and exports are estimated to decrease 13 percent compared with 2012, they said.

For week No. 1, Canadian railroads reported 68,421 carloads, about flat versus last year, and 42,001 containers and trailers, up 4.4 percent. Mexican railroads' weekly carloads fell 23.6 percent to 8,401 units and their intermodal volume plunged 31.2 percent to 5,090 units.

For the first week, 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads reported 318,504 carloads, down 10.1 percent, and 225,408 containers and trailers, down 6.7 percent compared with volumes from last year.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 1/11/2013