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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

AAR weekly report: U.S. carloadings snowed under by winter storms


Severe winter storms impacted U.S. rail traffic in 2011’s fifth week. During the week ending Feb. 5, U.S. railroads originated 267,682 carloads, essentially flat vs. last year, and 198,249 intermodal loads, down 1.5 percent vs. the same period last year, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

Intermodal container volume declined 2.5 percent and trailer volume rose 4.1 percent, while only eight of 20 carload commodity groups posted gains. Coal traffic was flat year over year even though CSX Corp. and Norfolk Southern Railway registered increases because Union Pacific Railroad’s volume was negatively impacted by winter storms and a weekend derailment, said Robert W. Baird & Co Inc. analysts in their weekly “Rail Flash” report.

However, the near-term coal outlook is optimistic “given robust prospects for international coal exports, U.S. utility coal stockpiles nearing normalized levels, the increase in industrial activity and potential for increased weather-related electrical demand,” they said.

Canadian railroads reported weekly volume of 67,536 carloads, down 2.6 percent, and 44,322 containers and trailers, up 1.7 percent year over year. Mexican railroads’ weekly carloads jumped 18.9 percent to 13,248 units and intermodal volume ballooned 46.2 percent to 7,581 units.

Through 2011’s first five weeks, 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads originated 1.8 million carloads, up 4.8 percent, and 1.3 million containers and trailers, up 5.2 percent compared with the same 2010 period.

For more AAR traffic data for the week ending Feb. 5 and through five weeks, follow this link.

Meanwhile, RMI is reporting that 340 regionals and short lines registered a 5 percent drop in total traffic (91,556 units) during the week ending Feb. 5. RMI’s RailConnect Index of Short Line Traffic also shows that through five weeks, the roads’ total carloads increased 8.7 percent to 504,580 units compared with the same 2010 period. Motor vehicle/equipment, intermodal and stone/clay/aggregate loads posted the largest year-over-year gains at 50 percent, 27 percent and 17.4 percent, respectively.

RailAmerica Inc., which owns 40 regionals and short lines, reported that January carloads totaled 68,963, up 1.2 percent vs. January 2010. Genesee & Wyoming Inc., which owns 63 regionals and short lines, in January registered 82,735 carloads, up 27 percent year over year.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 2/11/2011