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Intermodal “improvement” softens traffic downtrend in latest week

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief

U.S. freight carload traffic registered yet another decline during the week ended November 7, down 12.2% compared with comparable Week 44 of a year ago, the Association of American Railroads reported. Traffic also was down 19.6% from the comparable week in 2007. But U.S. intermodal traffic, though slipping 12.2% from a year ago, “showed incremental improvement from Week 43,” AAR noted.

Total volume on U.S. railroads for the week was 31 billion ton-miles, down 11.5% from 2008 and 14.7% from 2007. Four of 19 carload freight commodity groups gained ground, including grain (up 10%), nonmetallic minerals (up 2.8%), grain mill products (up 2.4%), and waste and scrap metal (up 1.6%).

Canadian railroads reported carload traffic fell 3.6% from the comparable week in 2008, while intermodal plunged 10% from a year ago. Mexico’s two major railroads reported carload traffic down 10.1% from the same week last year, with intermodal slipping a more modest 2.5%.

Combined North American rail volume for the first 44 weeks of 2009 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads was down 18.1% from last year, while intermodal fell 16% from 2008 levels.