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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

AAR: West Coast port problems in October dragged down U.S. roads' intermodal moves


October's West Coast port shutdown affected U.S. roads' monthly intermodal volume, which fell 5.1 percent (48,243 units) compared with October 2001, according to data released Nov. 7 by Association of American Railroads.

"We expect that over the course of the next few weeks, some of the lower volume from this month will be made up as the backlog gets cleared," said AAR Vice President Craig Rockey in a prepared statement. "Railroads certainly lost some intermodal traffic because it was redirected or shipped by air instead of steamship, but railroads have had no trouble handling the surge of traffic once it started moving again."

Along with intermodal moves, U.S. roads' carload totals also declined in October, dropping 1.6 percent (27,646 units) compared with last year.

Carloads of grain decreased 10.5 percent; crushed stone, sand and gravel, 6.8 percent; and coal, 3.9 percent.

However, carloads of metallic ores rose 15.6 percent; primary-metals, 8.3 percent; and motor vehicles and equipment, 6.0 percent.

Through 2002's first 44 weeks, U.S. railroads moved 14,554,983 carloads, dropping 1.0 percent (151,680 units), and 7,920,631 trailers and containers, rising 4.1 percent (308,602 units) compared with last year.

AAR estimated total volume through 44 weeks at 1.26 trillion ton-miles, up 0.7 percent compared with the same 2001 period.

Unlike their U.S. counterparts, Canadian roads increased October intermodal traffic, moving 13.6 percent more containers and trailers. But the railroads moved 1.2 percent fewer carloads compared with October 2001.

During the year's first ten months, Canadian roads moved 2,630,631 carloads, down 2.7 percent (71,626 units), and 1,702,310 trailers and containers, up 10.2 percent (157,307 units) compared with last year.

On a combined-volume basis through 2002's first 44 weeks, 16 reporting U.S. and Canadian roads moved 17,185,614 carloads, declining 1.3 percent (223,306 units) and 9,622,941 trailers and containers, rising 5.1 percent (465,909 units).

In Mexico, TFM S.A. de C.V. last month increased carloads 49.9 percent (15,349 units) and intermodal originations 96.9 percent (9,367 trailers and containers) compared with October 2001.

During the year's first ten months, TFM moved 12.4 percent more carloads and 26.9 percent more intermodal units compared with last year.