Hurricane Ike Causes Rail Freight Downturn

WASHINGTON —  Freight traffic on U.S. railroads was off sharply during the week ended September 20 in comparison with the same week last year, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported. Much of the decline can be attributed to disruptions caused by Hurricane Ike which struck the Gulf Coast Sept. 13.

Total volume was estimated at 32.8 billion ton-miles, down 6.8 percent from the comparable week last year.

Carload freight in the week totaled 312,662 cars, off 7.8 percent from last year. Volume was down 10.4 percent in the West and 4.3 percent in the East.

Intermodal volume, which is not included in the carload data, totaled 234,286 trailers or containers, down 6.2 percent from a year ago. Trailer volume was off 6.6 percent while container traffic was down 6.1 percent.

Eighteen of 21 carload commodity groups were down from a year ago. Chemical loadings were down 21.7 percent while grain was off 22.6 percent and lumber and wood products fell by 25.0 percent. Coal volume was up 2.2 percent from a year ago while metallic ores rose 16.6 percent.

Cumulative volume for the first 38 weeks of 2008 totaled 12,347,838 carloads, down 0.1 percent from 2007; 8,500,351 trailers or containers, down 3.1 percent; and total volume of an estimated 1.28 trillion ton-miles, up 1.0 percent from last year.

On Canadian railroads, during the week ended September 20 carload traffic totaled 71,794 cars, down 13.9 percent from last year while intermodal volume totaled 51,805 trailers or containers, up 2.1 percent from last year.

Cumulative originations for the first 38 weeks of 2008 on the Canadian railroads totaled 2,816,737 carloads, down 4.3 percent from last year, and 1,830,242 trailers and containers, an increase of 4.1 percent from last year.

Combined cumulative volume for the first 38 weeks of 2008 on U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 15,164,575 carloads, down 0.9 percent from last year, and 10,330,593 trailers and containers, a 1.9 percent decrease from last year.

The AAR also reported that carload freight on the Mexican railroad Kansas City Southern de Mexico (KCSM) during the week ended September 20 totaled 7,927 cars, down 28.2 percent from last year. KCSM reported intermodal volume of 5,592 trailers or containers, up 8.0 percent from the 38th week of 2007.

For the first 38 weeks of 2008, KCSM reported cumulative volume of 391,399 cars, down 5.0 percent from last year, and 186,187 trailers or containers, up 8.5 percent.

Railroads reporting to AAR account for 89 percent of U.S. carload freight and 98 percent of rail intermodal volume. When the U.S. operations of Canadian railroads are included, the figures increase to 96 percent and 100 percent. The Canadian railroads reporting to the AAR account for 91 percent of Canadian rail traffic. Railroads provide more than 40 percent of U.S. intercity freight transportation, more than any other mode, and rail traffic figures are regarded as an important economic indicator.

— Special to News Wire