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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

U.S. carload traffic continues downward trend through first-half 2001


Although U.S. carload traffic continued to swoon through June, there may be a ray of light on the horizon.
U.S. railroads in June moved 15,477 carloads — trailing June 2000 by 1.1 percent. Meanwhile, second-quarter 2001 carloads were down 0.4 percent and first-half carloads (8.66 million), 0.9 percent, compared with similar periods last year, according to data released July 5 by Association of American Railroads.
"[Although] there was no surprise in the June carloadings data … there may be cause for some optimism," said AAR Vice President Craig Rockey in a prepared statement. "A survey of prominent economists released early this week by The Wall Street Journalforecasts a marked increase in U.S. economic growth in the fourth quarter and first half of 2002."
For now, the only source of optimism for U.S. roads is coal: June's 32,354 carloads increased 6.5 percent compared with June 2000, and second-quarter (130,751) and first-half (252,291) carloads were up 8.1 percent and 7.7 percent, respectively, compared with similar periods last year.
Most other commodities are showing second-quarter and first-half carload declines compared with the same 2000 periods.
As for U.S. freight volume, American railroads through 26 weeks registered 727.3 billion ton-miles, a 0.5 percent increase compared with 2000's first 26 weeks.
However, U.S. intermodal traffic not only declined in June, but in second-quarter and first-half figures as well. June's 23,028 trailers and containers dropped 3.2 percent, while second-quarter trailers and containers decreased 3.9 percent (88,769 units) and first-half trailers and containers, 3 percent (135,317 units), compared with similar 2000 periods, says AAR.
Meanwhile, Canadian railroads recorded 2,687 carloads in June, a 1.1 percent drop compared with June 2000, while second-quarter carloads flatlined, rising 0.1 percent, and first-half carloads dipped 1.6 percent compared with similar periods last year.
Year-to-date, Canadian roads recorded 39.3 percent more carloads of farm products excluding grain, 5.2 percent more coal carloads and 3.5 percent more grain carloads compared with first-half 2000.
Canadian intermodal traffic continues to surpass 2000 data, rising 5.3 percent in June, 3.4 percent in the second quarter and 3 percent in the first half compared with last year's similar-period figures.
However, combined cumulative volume during 2001's first 26 weeks for 16 reporting U.S. and Canadian roads totaled 10,296,122 carloads — a 1.1 percent (109,878 carloads) drop compared with 2000's first 26 weeks. And first-half cumulative intermodal volume — 5,287,137 trailers and containers — trailed first-half 2000 data by 109,111 units, or 2 percent.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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