Thursday, February 21, 2013

As crude soars, U.S. freight traffic stays mixed

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Carloads of crude oil on U.S. Class I railroads set a record in 2012, up 256% from crude carloads in 2011, modestly helping to offset declines in other freight carload categories last year, according to results released by the Association of American Railroads Thursday. Crude oil in 2012 represented 0.8% of all U.S. Class I rail carloads, up from 0.2% in 2011. AAR reports crude-only carloading data on a quarterly basis.

But the mixed picture for U.S. freight traffic rolled on during the week ending Feb. 16, 2013, AAR said, with freight carload volume for the week down 1.2% measured against the comparable week in 2012, while U.S. intermodal volume, a significant driver of 2012 U.S. freight traffic, advanced 13.6%.

Only three of the 10 carload commodity groups AAR measured posted increases compared with the same week in 2012, with petroleum products continuing its upward climb, up 56.1%, followed by nonmetallic minerals and products, up 12.1 %. Commodities showing a decrease were led by grain, down 14.3%.

Canadian freight carload traffic fared better than its U.S. counterpart, up 1.5% for the week ending Feb. 16 compared with the same week in 2011. Canadian intermodal also did well, up 5.7%. Mexican freight carload traffic rose 11.% for the week compared to a year ago, while Mexican intermodal volume for the week was 7.7% higher than in the comparable 2012 period.

Combined North American freight carload volume for the seven weeks of 2013 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads was down 3.2% measured against the comparable period in 2012, while combined intermodal volume was 6.1% greater

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