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AAR reports mixed rail traffic for March weekly rail traffic mixed

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported U.S. rail carloads originated in March 2012 totaled 1,123,298, down 69,190 carloads or 5.8 percent, compared with March 2011. Intermodal volume in March 2012 was 928,350 containers and trailers, up 31,348 units or 3.5 percent compared with March 2011. Detailed monthly data charts and tables will be available in the AAR’s Rail Time Indicators report released online tomorrow.

Twelve of the 20 commodity groups tracked by AAR showed gains in March 2012 compared with the same month last year, including petroleum and petroleum products, up 9,052 carloads or 34.2 percent;

motor vehicles and parts, up 9,032 carloads or 15.3 percent; steel and other primary metal products, up 3,459 carloads or 8.3 percent; crushed stone, gravel, and sand, up 3,211 carloads or 4.8 percent; and metallic ores, up 1,642 carloads or 8.1 percent.

Commodities with carload declines in March were led by coal, down 84,854 carloads or 15.8 percent from March 2011. Other commodities with declines included grain, down 9,088 carloads or 9.7 percent; chemicals, down 4,278 carloads or 3.4 percent; nonmetallic minerals, down 1,863 carloads or 9.7 percent; and farm products excluding grain, down 479 carloads or 13.3 percent. Carloads excluding coal and grain were up 4.4 percent or 24,752 carloads in March 2012 over March 2011.

“There is no denying that coal is a crucial commodity for railroads, and there’s also no denying that recent declines in coal traffic are presenting significant challenges to railroads right now,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray.  “That said, it’s encouraging that many commodities that are better indicators of the state of the economy than coal is — things like motor vehicles, lumber and wood products, and crushed stone — saw higher rail carloadings in March.”

Class I employment fell to 159,228 in February 2012, a decline of 105 employees from January 2012.  Total Class I employment was 4,726 employees, or 3.1 percent, greater in February 2012 than in February 2011.  In February 2012, most major classes of rail employees saw declines from the month before.  The one exception was train and engine employees, whose employment rose by 170 in February 2012 over January 2012.

As of April 1, 2012, 299,324 freight cars were in storage, an increase of 9,819 from March 1, 2012, and equal to 19.6 percent of the North American fleet. 

AAR today also reported mixed weekly rail traffic for the week ending March 31, 2012, with U.S. railroads originating 286,962 carloads, down 6.2 percent compared with the same week last year. Intermodal volume for the week totaled 242,772 trailers and containers, up 3.6 percent compared with the same week last year.

Twelve of the 20 carload commodity groups posted increases compared with the same week in 2011, with petroleum products, up 38.2 percent; motor vehicles and equipment, up 17.2 percent, and metals and products, up 16.9 percent. The groups showing a significant decrease in weekly traffic included farm products excluding grain, down 19.7 percent; nonmetallic minerals, down 18.9 percent, and coal, down 18.2 percent.

Weekly carload volume on Eastern railroads was down 3.2 percent compared with the same week last year. In the West, weekly carload volume was down 8.2 percent compared with the same week in 2011.

For the first thirteen weeks of 2012, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 3,679,090 carloads, down 2.5 percent from last year, and 2,928,445 trailers and containers, up 2.5 percent from last year.

Canadian railroads reported 79,654 carloads for the week, up 0.8 percent compared with the same week last year, and 52,710 trailers and containers, up 12.4 percent compared with 2011. For the first thirteen weeks of 2012, Canadian railroads reported cumulative volume of 986,282 carloads, up 5.4 percent from the same point last year, and 632,934 trailers and containers, up 6.9 percent from last year.

Mexican railroads reported 14,889 carloads for the week, down 3.4 percent compared with the same week last year, and 9,103 trailers and containers, up 27.8 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first thirteen weeks of 2012 is 176,345 carloads, down 5.8 percent compared with last year, and 114,817 trailers and containers, up 22.7 percent.

Combined North American rail volume for the first thirteen weeks of 2012 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 4,841,717 carloads, down 1.1 percent compared with last year, and 3,676,196 trailers and containers, up 3.8 percent compared with last year.