Rail Traffic for January and the Week Ending February 3, 2018

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) yesterday reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending February 3, 2018, as well as volumes for January 2018.

U.S. railroads originated 1,217,405 carloads in January 2018, down 3.4 percent, or 42,431 carloads, from January 2017. U.S. railroads also originated 1,310,141 containers and trailers in January 2018, up 3.5 percent, or 44,183 units, from the same month last year. Combined U.S. carload and intermodal originations in January 2018 were 2,527,546, up 0.1 percent, or 1,752 carloads and intermodal units from January 2017.

In January 2018, eight of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw carload gains compared with January 2017. These included: crushed stone, sand & gravel, up 3,498 carloads or 3.8 percent; petroleum & petroleum products, up 3,196 carloads or 6.4 percent; and lumber & wood products, up 1,167 carloads or 8.0 percent. Commodities that saw declines in January 2018 from January 2017 included: coal, down 25,083 carloads or 5.8 percent; motor vehicles & parts, down 8,372 carloads or 10.1 percent; and grain, down 6,917 carloads or 5.8 percent.​

“Recent stock market gyrations remind all of us that, when it comes to things related to the economy, conditions can change quickly.  For now, though, rail volumes are not flashing strong warning signs,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray.  “In January, intermodal picked up where it left off last year, when it set a new annual record, and several carload categories showed gains for the month.  To be sure, we could do without January’s sharp fall in motor vehicle and coal carloads, among others, but we’re hopeful that the basic economy remains on a firm footing and that the recent turmoil in the markets simply represents an adjustment to potential interest rate changes.”

Excluding coal, carloads were down 17,348 carloads, or 2.1 percent, in January 2018 from January 2017. Excluding coal and grain, carloads were down 10,431 carloads, or 1.5 percent.

Week Ending February 3, 2018

Total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 547,993 carloads and intermodal units, up 2.5 percent compared with the same week last year.

Total carloads for the week ending February 3 were 265,157 carloads, down 1.4 percent compared with the same week in 2017, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 282,836 containers and trailers, up 6.3 percent compared to 2017.

Five of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2017. They included metallic ores and metals, up 1,147 carloads, to 20,984; nonmetallic minerals, up 773 carloads, to 32,690; and chemicals, up 736 carloads, to 33,443. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2017 included coal, down 2,796 carloads, to 89,644; motor vehicles and parts, down 2,354 carloads, to 16,329; and farm products excl. grain, and food, down 1,176 carloads, to 16,165.

North American rail volume for the week ending February 3, 2018, on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 364,307 carloads, down 1 percent compared with the same week last year, and 370,608 intermodal units, up 6.5 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 734,915 carloads and intermodal units, up 2.6 percent. North American rail volume for the first five weeks of 2018 was 3,408,718 carloads and intermodal units, up 0.3 percent compared with 2017.

Canadian railroads reported 78,488 carloads for the week, down 2 percent, and 70,646 intermodal units, up 7.9 percent compared with the same week in 2017. For the first five weeks of 2018, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 695,195 carloads, containers and trailers, up 0.8 percent.

Mexican railroads reported 20,662 carloads for the week, up 8.8 percent compared with the same week last year, and 17,126 intermodal units, up 3 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first five weeks of 2018 was 185,977 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, up 0.9 percent from the same point last year.

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