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U.S., Canadian railroads register carload declines in March, AAR says


After a promising January and February, March was a letdown for U.S. railroads. Carloads totaling 1.3 million units declined 0.1 percent and intermodal loads totaling 856,404 units decreased 5.7 percent compared with March 2007’s totals, according to Association of American Railroads (AAR) data.

Out of 19 major commodity categories, 12 posted declines, including motor vehicles and equipment (19.4 percent), and crushed stone, sand and gravel (13.4 percent). Grain and coal were two of the few bright spots, increasing 13.9 percent and 5.9 percent, respectively.

“Recent disappointing economic news helps explain why rail traffic is not more robust,” said AAR Senior Vice President John Gray in a prepared statement. “For example, the Department of Commerce recently reported that construction spending is down, which helps explain why carloads of crushed stone, sand and gravel are down, [and] weak consumer spending and the weak dollar help explain why intermodal volume is down.”

During the first quarter, U.S. railroads originated 4.2 million carloads, up 1.1 percent, and 2.8 million intermodal loads, down 4.1 percent compared with first-quarter 2007’s totals. Total volume reached an estimated 431.5 billion ton-miles, representing a 2.3 percent year-over-year increase.

Canadian railroads had a trying March, too. Their carloads dropped 7.7 percent to 296,253 units and intermodal volume decreased 2.7 percent to 182,157 units compared with March 2007’s totals. Through the first quarter, Canadian roads originated 951,331 carloads, down 2.5 percent, and 593,924 containers and trailer, up 4.7 percent.

On a combined cumulative-volume basis through the first quarter, 12 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads originated 5.1 million carloads, up 0.4 percent, and 3.4 million containers and trailers, down 2.7 percent year over year.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 4/4/2008