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Rail traffic down for first week in December while intermodal up

Carloads originated in November totaled 1,130,770 carloads, down 4 percent (47,512 carloads) compared with the same month last year.

The Trucker News Services

12/10/2012

WASHINGTON  – The Association of American Railroads (AAR) last week reported U.S. rail monthly rail traffic continued to show mixed results in November, while weekly rail traffic for the week ending Dec. 1 was down.

Intermodal traffic in November saw an increase for the 36th straight month, totaling 934,595 containers and trailers, up 1.2 percent (11,519 units) compared with November of 2011. Carloads originated in November totaled 1,130,770 carloads, down 4 percent (47,512 carloads) compared with the same month last year. Carloads excluding coal and grain were up 5.5 percent for the month, or 30,466 carloads, compared with the same month last year.

Commodity groups that saw carload gains in November 2012 compared with the same month last year included: petroleum and petroleum products, up 56.9 percent or 17,592 carloads; motor vehicles and parts, up 14.1 percent or 7,762 carloads, and crushed stone, sand, and gravel, up 7.4 percent or 5,319 carloads. Commodities with carload declines in November were led by coal, down 12.8 percent or 68,837 carloads; grain, down 10.7 percent or 9,141 carloads, and metallic ores, down 10.7 percent or 3,545 carloads.

“Coal and grain together account for almost half of non-intermodal U.S. rail traffic, so they are obviously very important to railroads.  But coal and grain carloads often rise or fall for reasons that have little or nothing to do with the economy. Other commodity categories like autos, lumber, and crushed stone, sand and gravel that are more highly correlated with economic growth have been growing, which we hope is a good sign for the economy moving forward,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. 

Detailed monthly data charts and tables will be available in the AAR’s Rail Time Indicators report released online tomorrow. 

AAR also reported declines in rail traffic for the week ending Dec. 1, 2012.  Last week U.S. railroads originated 305,708 carloads, down 2 percent compared with the same week last year, while intermodal volume for the week totaled 241,411 trailers and containers, down 1.1 percent compared with the same week last year. 

Fourteen of the 20 carload commodity groups posted increases compared with the same week in 2011, with petroleum products, up 65.3 percent; metallic ores, up 27.2 percent, and iron and steel scrap, up 20.2 percent. The groups showing a decrease in weekly traffic included coal, down 12.7 percent; waste and nonferrous scrap, down 5.6 percent, and primary forest products, down 5 percent. 

Weekly carload volume on Eastern railroads was down 2.1 percent compared with the same week last year. In the West, weekly carload volume was down 1.9 percent compared with the same week in 2011. 

For the first 48 weeks of 2012, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 13,595,829 carloads, down 3.1 percent from the same point last year, and 11,379,334 trailers and containers, up 3.3 percent from last year.

Canadian railroads reported 78,774 carloads for the week, down 0.7 percent compared with the same week last year, and 49,783 trailers and containers, down 2 percent compared with 2011. For the first 48 weeks of 2012, Canadian railroads reported cumulative volume of 3,710,095 carloads, up 2.1 percent from the same point last year, and 2,484,231 trailers and containers, up 6.7 percent from last year.

Mexican railroads reported 15,113 carloads for the week, up 6.3 percent compared with the same week last year, and 10,722 trailers and containers, up 15.1 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 48 weeks of 2012 is 693,244 carloads, up 0.8 percent from the same point last year, and 483,528 trailers and containers, up 19.6 percent from last year.

Combined North American rail volume for the first 48 weeks of 2012 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 17,999,168 carloads, down 1.9 percent compared with the same point last year, and 14,347,093 trailers and containers, up 4.3 percent compared with last year.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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