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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Another week, another traffic gain for U.S. railroads


For the week ending Sept. 6, U.S. railroads originated 286,002 carloads, up 2.7 percent compared with the same week last year, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

Nine of 10 of the carload commodity groups posted gains, led by petroleum and petroleum products at 31.1 percent, nonmetallic minerals at 13.1 percent, and metallic ores and metals at 8.5 percent. Coal traffic declined 5.4 percent.

For the week, Canadian railroads originated 80,312 carloads, up 3.4 percent, and Mexican railroads originated 14,531 carloads, down 0.2 percent. Through 2014’s first 36 weeks, 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads handled 13,829,706 carloads, up 3.1 percent year over year.

The AAR also reported that weekly U.S. intermodal volume rose 4.5 percent to 239,142 units, helping total combined traffic increase 3.5 percent to 525,144 units, while intermodal volume in Canada rose 5.7 percent to 55,804 units and volume in Mexico jumped 26.3 percent to 11,617 units. Through 36 weeks, the 13 reporting railroads handled 11,663,458 containers and trailers, up 5.9 percent compared with the same 2013 period.

U.S. roads' intermodal volume likely will continue to get a boost in September from containers imported at major ports, albeit not at August’s record pace. Nonetheless, retailers concerned by the lack of a West Coast longshoremen’s contract will continue to import merchandise at above-average levels this month, according to the latest Global Port Tracker report from the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.

The contract between the Pacific Maritime Association and International Longshore and Warehouse Union expired on July 1, prompting retailers' concerns about potential port disruptions that could affect the flow of back-to-school or holiday merchandise. A tentative agreement on health benefits was announced last month, but the two sides continue to negotiate on other issues.

"The negotiations have made progress and retailers have been stocking up, but there’s still cargo that needs to arrive before the holiday season kicks off," said NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold in a press release. "Retailers are making sure that consumer demand during the holidays will be met."

September import volume at U.S. ports covered by Global Port Tracker is projected to increase 2.4 percent year over year to 1.47 million containers, down from the all-time monthly record of 1.53 million units set in August. Global Port Tracker also forecasts October volume at 1.51 million units, which would represent a 5.5 percent increase compared with October 2013's total.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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