The Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending September 2, 2017, as well as volumes for August 2017, which was the best month in history for intermodal traffic.
U.S. railroads originated 1,343,405 carloads in August 2017, decreased 0.3 percent, or 4,571 carloads, from August 2016. U.S. railroads also originated 1,401,081 containers and trailers in August 2017, up 5.6 percent, or 73,790 units, from the same month last year. Combined U.S. carload and intermodal originations in August 2017 were 2,744,486, up 2.6 percent, or 69,219 carloads and intermodal units, from August 2016.
In August 2017, seven of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw carload gains compared with August 2016. These included: coal, up 25,926 carloads or 5.8 percent; crushed stone, sand & gravel, up 14,506 carloads or 12.1 percent; and metallic ores, up 4,550 carloads or 16.1 percent. Commodities that saw declines in August 2017 from August 2016 included: grain, down 24,565 carloads or 20.4 percent; motor vehicles & parts, down 10,321 carloads or 11.2 percent; and petroleum & petroleum products, down 8,362 carloads or 15.8 percent.
“Rail traffic in August was a mixed bag, with gains in coal and sand, among other commodities, offset by declines in grain, autos, and crude oil,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. “These results reflect the fact that different rail customer segments are always facing different market dynamics, including, during the last week of August, Hurricane Harvey.”
Regarding Hurricane Harvey, Gray said, “Unfortunately, floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes are a fact of life, and railroads have long experience dealing with them and their aftermath. Railroads know that the quicker they can safely restore service, the quicker affected communities can obtain food, water, and other necessities; that supplies needed for rebuilding can be brought in; that debris can be removed; and that rail customers can return their operations to normal. In this regard, for railroads there is no alternative to long hours of very hard work in very difficult conditions, and that's what railroads have been putting in.”
Excluding coal, carloads were down 30,497 carloads, or 3.4 percent, in August 2017 from August 2016. Excluding coal and grain, carloads were down 5,932 carloads, or 0.8 percent.
Total U.S. carload traffic for the first eight months of 2017 was 9,062,097 carloads, up 4.5 percent, or 393,428 carloads, from the same period last year; and 9,352,108 intermodal units, up 3.4 percent, or 309,302 containers and trailers, from last year.
Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 35 weeks of 2017 was 18,414,205 carloads and intermodal units, an increase of 4 percent compared to last year.
Week Ending September 2, 2017
Total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 534,140 carloads and intermodal units, down 0.9 percent compared with the same week last year.
Total carloads for the week ending September 2 were 257,077 carloads, down 5.9 percent compared with the same week in 2016, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 277,063 containers and trailers, up 4.2 percent compared to 2016.
Three of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2016. They were coal, up 4,017 carloads, to 94,510; nonmetallic minerals, up 941 carloads, to 36,696; and metallic ores and metals, up 878 carloads, to 23,028. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2016 included chemicals, down 6,756 carloads, to 24,993; grain, down 6,249 carloads, to 18,206; and petroleum and petroleum products, down 3,146 carloads, to 7,640.
North American rail volume for the week ending September 2, 2017, on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 355,608 carloads, down 1.9 percent compared with the same week last year, and 358,874 intermodal units, up 5.2 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 714,482 carloads and intermodal units, up 1.5 percent. North American rail volume for the first 35 weeks of 2017 was 24,389,083 carloads and intermodal units, up 5.3 percent compared with 2016.
Canadian railroads reported 82,422 carloads for the week, up 9.5 percent, and 69,939 intermodal units, up 10 percent compared with the same week in 2016. For the first 35 weeks of 2017, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 5,024,458 carloads, containers and trailers, up 11.5 percent.
Mexican railroads reported 16,109 carloads for the week, up 14.6 percent compared with the same week last year, and 11,872 intermodal units, down 0.4 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 35 weeks of 2017 was 950,420 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, up 0.5 percent from the same point last year.