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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

U.S. and Canadian rails in May compose same old sad freight-traffic song, says AAR


U.S. railroad freight traffic last month somewhat slowed the year-over-year bleeding, but year-to-date carloads (7,328,355) remain rails’ festering wound, dropping 0.9 percent, or 69,178 carloads, compared with 2000’s first five months, according to Association of American Railroads data released June 7.
May traffic was down a flat 0.1 percent (1,755 carloads) compared with May 2000.
Coal carloads last month continued a year-long surge, rising 8.4 percent (52,332 carloads) compared with May 2000. Other commodities showing year-over-year increases last month include crushed stone, sand and gravel, up 6.6 percent (6,598 carloads); food and kindred products, 7.9 percent (3,237 carloads); and grain mill products, 4.7 percent (2,048 carloads).
On the downside, most other major commodities declined last month compared with May 2000: Grain dropped 10.9 percent (11,052 carloads); non-metallic minerals, 24.6 percent (10,774 carloads); chemicals, 5.9 percent (8,676 carloads); pulp and paper products, 12.3 percent (6,243 carloads); metallic ores, 9.3 percent (8,429 carloads); and motor vehicles and parts, 4.2 percent (5,779 carloads).
"Because of the continuing economic slowdown, auto production has been cut back, and paper and lumber prices are slumping," said AAR Vice President Craig Rockey in a prepared statement. "Meanwhile, grain market prices aren’t where farmers would like, high natural gas prices are hurting many chemical sectors and domestic steel producers are locked in a fierce battle with foreign suppliers — all these factors and more are limiting rail carloadings."
U.S. intermodal traffic last month also continued a year-long slide, dropping 4.4 percent (37,814 trailers and containers) compared with May 2000. Year-to-date (as of June 2), intermodal volume of 3,675,216 trailers and containers is down 3 percent compared with a similar period last year.
Total U.S. volume through 22 weeks, too, remained flat at 614.7 billion ton-miles — a slight 0.4 percent increase compared with 2000’s first 22 weeks, said AAR.
Canadian roads in May registered a 0.5 percent (1,538 carloads) gain compared with May 2000, but year-to-date traffic of 1,389,839 carloads dropped 1.7 percent (24,196 carloads) compared with 2000’s first five months.
However, Canadian railroads through 22 weeks totaled 764,731 trailers and containers, an intermodal-volume jump of 2.5 percent compared with a similar period last year.
On a combined year-to-date basis, 16 reporting U.S. and Canadian roads totaled 8,708,194 carloads — down 1.1 percent (93,374 carloads) compared with 2000’s first 22 weeks; the railroads also reported 4,439,947 trailers and containers, a 2.1 percent dip (93,330 units) compared with a similar period last year.