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AAR: U.S. railroads registered good traffic-building month to start 2014

In January, U.S. carloads totaled 1,345,184, up 0.4 percent, and U.S. intermodal volume totaled 1,183,285 containers and trailers, up 1.3 percent compared with January 2012 totals, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

The weekly average of 236,657 intermodal units was the highest for any January on record, AAR officials said in a press release. Seven of 20 commodity categories posted gains, including grain at 13.2 percent and petroleum and petroleum products at 10.4 percent.

Metallic ores traffic fell  23.5 percent, motor vehicles and parts volume declined 6.1 percent and coal loads dipped 0.5 percent. Excluding coal, January carloads rose 1 percent, AAR officials said.

"Railroads are very good at operating their 140,000-mile-long, outdoor 'factory floor' in all kinds of difficult weather. That said, in many parts of the country, January took the term difficult weather to new lows, as in low temperatures, for recent years," said AAR Senior Vice President John Gray. "We can't quantify it precisely, but the extreme cold probably held down rail traffic to some extent — for example, by making it more difficult for rail customers to produce their products and to load what they did produce into rail cars."

For the week ending Feb. 1, U.S. railroads registered 270,903 carloads, down 1.5 percent, and 247,109 intermodal loads, down 0.8 percent year over year. Total U.S. rail traffic decreased 1.2 percent to 518,012 units.

Through 2014's first five weeks, U.S. railroads handled 1,345,184 carloads, up 0.4 percent, and 1,183,285 intermodal units, up 1.3 percent from last year.

Meanwhile, Canadian railroads reported 72,288 carloads for the week ending Feb. 1, down 3.8 percent. Their intermodal volume dropped 6.3 percent to 46,527 units. Mexican railroads reported weekly carloads totaling 15,055, down 1.3 percent, and intermodal volume totaling 10,319 units, up 1.1 percent.

Through five weeks, 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads handled 1,769,327 carloads, down 0.7 percent, and 1,471,445 containers and trailers, up 0.5 percent compared with the same 2013 period.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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