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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

AAR notes strong rail traffic, 'restrictive' regs that could curtail network growth


For the week ending Oct. 11, U.S. railroads reported 298,376 carloads, up 4.3 percent, and 273,436 intermodal units, up 4.8 percent compared with volumes from the same week last year, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

Total combined weekly traffic rose 4.6 percent to 571,812 units and eight of 10 carload commodity groups posted gains, led by petroleum and petroleum products at 19.5 percent, and nonmetallic minerals at 12.2 percent.

Through 2014's first 41 weeks, U.S. railroads logged 11,920,873 carloads, up 3.6 percent, and 10,627,448 intermodal units, up 5.5 percent year over year.

For the week ending Oct. 11, Canadian railroads reported 89,822 carloads, up 5.2 percent, and 60,183 intermodal units, up 3.3 percent compared with the same 2013 week. Mexican railroads’ weekly carloads jumped 38.3 percent to 19,745 units and their intermodal volume climbed 30.8 percent to 14,238 units.

Through 41 weeks, Canadian railroads' carloads totaled 3,279,947, up 1.4 percent, and intermodal volume totaled 2,350,547 units, up 6.7 percent, while Mexican railroads' carloads totaled 646,821, up 3 percent, and intermodal volume totaled 435,413 units, up 5.1 percent.

Thirteen reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads through 41 weeks registered 15,847,641 carloads, up 3.1 percent, and 13,413,408 containers and trailers, up 5.7 percent compared with the same 2013 period.

Healthy rail traffic is a prime indicator of the economy's well being, according to the AAR. So, the recovering U.S. economy can ill afford new, restrictive regulations that would stymie private rail investments and curtail rail network growth, said AAR President and Chief Executive Officer Ed Hamberger yesterday during a speech at the Railway Tie Association's conference in Orlando, Fla.

The rail industry is well positioned to help the nation's economy keep growing, but proposed government rules and regulations would undercut industry efforts to enlarge the rail network, buy necessary equipment and hire thousands of workers, he said.

"The fact is that any regulation diminishing the rail industry's ability to invest in its 140,000-mile network is a regulation that will undermine the industry's ability to deliver the efficient and reliable service shippers expect and rely on," said Hamberger.

However, as the economy has rebounded and traffic volumes have surged in 2014, there has been a diminution in rail service levels for some customers, he said. Railroads are actively working to fix service problems and are committed to restoring service to the levels shippers expect, Hamberger added.
"Our active plan for improving service and ensuring that freight rail meets steadily increasing demands revolves around continued massive railroad spending, including investment in new rails, freight cars, locomotives and quality personnel," he said.

Major rail infrastructure investments are needed now more than ever to address existing service issues, as well as plan for capacity expansions required to handle future freight demands, Hamberger believes.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 10/17/2014