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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

AAR: U.S. roads off to strong traffic-building start in April

April's first week was a good one for U.S. railroads. For the week ending April 6, they originated 280,748 carloads, up 3.7 percent, and 231,648 intermodal units, up 0.2 percent compared with volumes from the same 2012 period, according to the Association of American Railroads.

Total U.S. traffic for the week rose 2.1 percent to 512,396 units. Eight of 10 carload commodity groups posted gains, including petroleum and petroleum products at 52.9 percent, and nonmetallic minerals and products, 10.9 percent.

Continued secular growth in shale-related carloads, which in the first quarter jumped 46 percent year over year, helped drive petroleum products volume, according to Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc.'s weekly "Rail Flash" report.

"Despite the fact that the majority of crude oil shipments originate in the western U.S., petroleum products volumes have benefited both western and eastern rails," Baird analysts said in the report.

On a year-over-year basis, first-quarter crude traffic gains climbed to 80 percent for BNSF Railway Co., 63 percent for Norfolk Southern Corp., 58 percent for CSX Corp. and 49 percent for Union Pacific Railroad, they said.

Meanwhile, Canadian railroads reported weekly carloads totaling 81,934 units, up 8.9 percent, and intermodal volume totaling 52,004 units, up 3.1 percent year over year. Mexican railroads' weekly carloads climbed 22.4 percent to 14,780 units and intermodal volume soared 25 percent to 8,954 units.

Through 2013's 14 weeks, 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads handled 5,148,376 carloads, down 1 percent, and 4,156,430 containers and trailers, up 4.8 percent compared with the same 2012 period.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 4/12/2013