Intermodal Sets Industry Record in 2002

Intermodal traffic on U.S. railroads set an annual record during 2002, for the sixth time in the last seven years, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

Intermodal volume during the week ended Dec. 21, 2002, totaled 184,430 trailers and containers, up 8.6 percent from the comparable 2001 week. This brought the total for the first 51 weeks of 2001 to 9,228,856 trailers and containers, up 4.5 percent from last year. It was also 0.6 percent above the 9,176,890 moved during the 52 weeks of 2000, when the previous annual record was set.

“2002 was a very challenging year for industries across the economic spectrum, including freight railroads,” said AAR vice president Craig F. Rockey.  “Obviously, we’re pleased to have set another intermodal record — an indication that the intermodal partnerships between railroads, motor carriers, and steamship lines are working extremely well.  We also experienced carload gains in the second half of the year, which we hope will continue into 2003.  Although there is still a great deal of uncertainty regarding the direction of the general economy, railroads stand ready to help make solid, sustained economic growth a reality through efficient, cost-effective service that meets the freight transportation needs of our nation.”

Carload traffic, which doesn’t include the intermodal data, was also up during the week, totaling 346,216 cars, 2.1 percent above the total for the comparable week last year. Carload volume was up 4.0 percent in the West, but down 0.2 percent in the East. Total volume was estimated at 29.9 billion ton-miles, up 0.7 percent from 2001.

Sharp increases in comparison with last year were reported in loadings of metallic ores, up 108.3 percent; coke, up 55.5 percent; farm products other than grain, up 24.3 percent; and metals, up 14.7 percent. Eight of 19 carload commodity groups were down in comparison with last year, with primary forest products down 8.7 percent; crushed stone, gravel and sand off 7.9 percent; and coal down 3.1 percent.

U.S. rail carloadings in December 2002 were paced by metallic ores (up 57.9 percent, or 25,266 carloads), chemicals (up 6.7 percent, or 6,960 carloads), primary metal products (up 16.0 percent, or 6,637 carloads), and coke (up 41.1 percent, or 5,005 carloads).  Commodities showing carload declines in December 2002 included coal (down 2.1 percent, or 11,193 carloads), crushed stone (down 14.4 percent, or 9,391 carloads), and motor vehicles and equipment (down 3.7 percent, or 3,432 carloads).  All told, 13 of the 19 major commodity categories tracked by the AAR saw carload increases in December 2002 compared with December 2001.

In the fourth quarter of 2002, a 3.2 percent decline (57,621 carloads) in coal traffic was almost entirely offset by a 33.1 percent increase (57,334 carloads) in metallic ore traffic.  In the quarter, carloads of primary metal products were up 10.7 percent (15,752 carloads) and carloads of chemicals were up 4.0 percent (14,173 carloads), while carloads of crushed stone and grain were down 9.1 percent (23,177 carloads) and 3.8 percent (11,720 carloads), respectively.

For the full year 2002, U.S. coal carloadings were down 3.4 percent (237,966 carloads), as export shipments remained weak and coal-fired power plants drew down inventories, while grain carloadings fell 3.3 percent (36,800 carloads)  On the positive side, carloads of metallic ores were up 12.3 percent (87,349 carloads) for the year, and carloads of motor vehicles and equipment were up 3.5 percent (42,703 carloads).

Canadian rail carloads were down 3.0 percent (6,512 carloads) in December 2002, down 2.3 percent (18,257 carloads) in the fourth quarter, and down 2.7 percent (86,173 carloads) for all of 2002 compared with the same period of 2001.  Commodities showing year-over-year carload gains for Canadian railroads in 2002 include chemicals (up 7.7 percent, or 50,065 carloads) and motor vehicles and equipment (up 8.6 percent, or 31,886 carloads).  Commodities showing carload declines for Canadian railroads in 2002 include grain (down 20.4 percent, or 99,230 carloads), coal (down 9.6 percent, or 44,526 carloads), and farm products excluding grain (down 28.2 percent, or 28,697 carloads).

Canadian intermodal traffic was up 25.2 percent (31,729 trailers and containers) in December, up 18.8 percent (86,078 trailers and containers) in the fourth quarter, and up 12.0 percent (217,726 trailers and containers) for the full year 2002 compared with 2001.

Carloads originated on Transportación Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM), a major Mexican railroad, were up 26.0 percent (6,919 carloads) in December, while intermodal originations were up 96.1 percent (5,785 trailers and containers).  For the full year 2002, TFM carload originations were up 15.7 percent (56,197 carloads), while TFM intermodal traffic was up 36.3 percent (42,390 units).

For just the week ended December 28, 2002, U.S. railroads originated 244,774 carloads, up 7.9 percent from the corresponding week in 2001, with loadings up 12.6 percent in the East and up 5.1 percent in the West; intermodal volume of 120,774 trailers and containers, up 15.8 percent; and total volume of an estimated 20.8 billion ton-miles, up 7.2 percent.  Canadian railroads originated 34,491 carloads, down 5.4 percent, and 25,374 trailers and containers, up 32.5 percent, from the corresponding week in 2001.  Both the 2002 week and the comparison week from last year included the Christmas holiday.

Combined cumulative volume for the 52 weeks of 2002 on 16 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 20,234,393 carloads, down 1.0 percent (200,771 carloads) from 2001; and 11,383,006 trailers and containers, up 5.9 percent (631,912 trailers and containers) from 2001.

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