Weaker coal traffic pushed rail carloadings down 6.8 percent in July at short line operator RailAmerica compared to the same month a year ago.
RailAmerica’s “same-store” volume for railroads the company ran in the United States and Canada 2010 and 2011 was off 7.4 percent from last year to 68,293 carloads.
“Lower coal shipments were the main reason for the decline,” the railway said. “Excluding coal, carloads were down 1.2 percent.” Coal traffic is RailAmerica’s largest cargo, and it shrank 26.3 percent from last July.
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Coal traffic weakened this summer for the entire rail sector, partly because of the slow economy and heavy coal inventory at utilities. Coal traffic was also hurt by Midwest flooding disrupting shipments in recent months.
That supply chain effect has also shrank crop shipments, the company’s second-largest cargo, by 6.7 percent.
But RailAmerica said year-over-year traffic grew for five of its 12 major commodity groups, with chemicals traffic posting the largest gains. That third-ranked cargo by volume for the company increased 6.4 percent
Chemicals also comprise the largest cargo category for the hundreds of railroads tracked weekly by the RMI RailConnect index, and that cargo group is often a signal of early demand by factories for raw materials.
RailAmerica’s metallic ores and metal loadings rose 1.9 percent in July from a year earlier, also an early sign of reviving factory demand and in keeping with the broader trend of RMI-reporting short lines.