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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

U.S. roads notched intermodal volume record in 2013, AAR says


Last year, U.S. railroads set an intermodal volume record at 12.8 million containers and trailers, besting the previous record set in 2006 by 549,471 units, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR). On a year-over-year basis, intermodal volume rose 4.5 percent.

But the roads' 2013 carloads, which totaled 14.6 million units, decreased 0.5 percent compared with 2012. Only 11 of 20 carload commodity categories posted year-over-year gains, led by petroleum and petroleum products at 31.1 percent, waste and nonferrous scrap at 9.1 percent, crushed stone, gravel and sand at 8.3 percent, and motor vehicles/parts at 5.1 percent.

Metallic ores volume fell 9.9 percent, grain loads declined 8 percent and coal traffic dropped 4.3 percent. Excluding coal and grain, U.S. carloads increased 3.4 percent for the full year.

"2013 ended the way it began — strong intermodal, weak coal and mixed performance for other commodities, resulting in a year for rail traffic that could have been much better, but also could have been much worse," said AAR Senior Vice President John Gray in a press release. "A variety of indicators seem to be saying that the economy is slowly strengthening; a trend we expect to continue in 2014."

In December, U.S. railroads originated 1,078,903 carloads, down 0.9 percent, and 958,778 intermodal loads, up 8 percent compared with December 2012.

For the week ending Jan. 4, which is considered 2014's first traffic week, U.S. railroads originated 246,846 carloads, up 2.1 percent, and 186,878 intermodal loads, up 4.8 percent. Total combined U.S. traffic rose 3.2 percent.

Canadian railroads reported week No. 1 carloads totaling 63,266, down 7.4 percent, and intermodal volume totaling 42,105 units, up 0.4 percent. Mexican railroads' carloads increased 3.4 percent to 10,524 units, but their intermodal volume tumbled 12.7 percent to 4,976 units.

In the year's first week, 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads handled 320,636 carloads, up 0.1 percent, and 233,959 containers and trailers, up 3.5 percent compared with the same 2013 period.