WASHINGTON — Freight traffic on U.S. railroads was down slightly near the end of February in comparison with last year, primarily because of a sharp drop in coal loadings, the Association of American Railroads reported.
For the week ended Feb. 20 U.S. railroads originated 273,999 carloads, down 1.6 percent compared with the same week in 2009, and down 15.3 percent from 2008. In order to offer a complete picture of the progress in rail traffic, AAR now reports 2010 weekly rail traffic with comparison weeks in both 2009 and 2008.
Intermodal traffic, however, was up sharply in comparison with last year, although still down from 2008. Volume of 200,204 trailers and containers was up 19 percent from last year, but down 11.1 percent compared with 2008. Compared with the same week in 2009, container volume increased 24.9 percent and trailer volume fell 5.6 percent. Compared with the same week in 2008, container volume decreased 4.3 percent and trailer volume dropped 36.1 percent. The comparison week from last year was affected by the Chinese New Year, which has a significant impact on container volume.
In the Western U.S., carloads were up 2.2 percent compared with the same week last year, but off 10.8 percent compared with 2008. In the Eastern U.S., carloads were down 7.1 percent compared with 2009, and 21.5 percent compared with the same week in 2008.
The decline in total weekly carload volume was largely caused by a 16,828-carload drop in coal loadings. Twelve of the 19 carload freight commodity groups actually were up in comparison with the same week last year. Double-digit increases were reported in loadings of metals (44.6 percent), motor vehicles and equipment (30.5 percent), grain (21.9 percent), metallic ores (17.6 percent), grain mill products (14.4 percent) and chemicals (13.7 percent).
Total volume on U.S. railroads for the week ending Feb. 20, 2010 was estimated at 29.8 billion ton-miles, down 0.7 percent from the same week last year and down 12.6 percent from 2008.
For the first 7 weeks of 2010, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 1,856,400 carloads, down 1.8 percent from 2009 and 17.2 percent from 2008; 1,397,021 trailers or containers, up 4.7 percent from 2009, but down 11.3 percent from 2008, and total volume of an estimated 201.8 billion ton-miles, down 0.8 percent from 2009 and 14.3 percent from 2008.
Canadian railroads reported volume of 70,455 cars for the week, up 9.6 percent from last year, and 43,605 trailers or containers, up 12.5 percent from 2009. For the first 7 weeks of 2010, Canadian railroads reported cumulative volume of 493,072 carloads, up 12.5 percent from last year, and 304,389 trailers or containers, up 3.9 percent from last year.
Mexican railroads reported originated volume of 14,099 cars, up 25.3 percent from the same week last year, and 6,364 trailers or containers, up 12.7 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 7 weeks of 2010 was reported as 93,261 carloads, up 24.1 percent from last year; and 44,243 trailers or containers, up 31.7 percent.
Combined North American rail volume for the first 7 weeks of 2010 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 2,442,733 carloads, up 1.8 percent from last year, and 1,745,653 trailers and containers, up 5.1 percent from last year.
Kevin Jones of The Trucker staff may be contacted to comment at email@example.com.