Thursday, April 04, 2013

U.S. freight traffic slips as March ends

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U.S. freight carload traffic and U.S. intermodal volume declined during the week ending March 30, 2013, the Association of American Railroads said Thursday, as the overall month ended in mixed fashion.

U.S. freight carload traffic slipped 1.9% for the week measured against the comparable week in 2012, while intermodal volume also fell, down 3.8%.

Just three of the 10 carload commodity groups AAR tracks posted increases compared with the same week in 2012, led by petroleum products, up 55.6%. The groups showing a decrease in weekly traffic were led by grain, down 27.4 %.

Canadian freight carload traffic for the week did better, up 0.5% compared with the same week last year, but Canadian intermodal volume declined 10.5%. Mexican freight carload volume also fell, down 6.3%, compared with one year ago, and Mexican intermodal fared worse in percentage terms, down 13.9%.

Combined North American freight carload volume for the first 13 weeks of 2013 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads was down 1.5% measured against the comparable period in 2012. Combined North American intermodal volume, by contrast, was up 5% for the period.

AAR Thursday also noted mixed results for U.S. railroad business for the month of March compared with March 2012. U.S. freight carload traffic was down 0.5% and U.S. intermodal volume up an inverse 0.5%. AAR said the intermodal percentage increase "represents the smallest year-over-year monthly gain for intermodal since August 2011."

"U.S. rail traffic continues to mirror the overall economy: not great, not terrible, anticipating a better future," said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. "Petroleum and petroleum products continues to lead traffic gains, while coal and grain have seen better days. Intermodal volume in March was up just 0.5 percent over last year, but it was still the highest-volume March in history and built on even stronger gains earlier in the quarter."