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December 2017
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AAR reports rail traffic for September and week ending September 30, 2017

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending September 30, 2017, as well as volumes for September 2017.

U.S. railroads originated 1,044,563 carloads in September 2017, down 2.3 percent, or -24,106 carloads, from September 2016. U.S. railroads also originated 1,080,444 containers and trailers in September 2017, up 3.8 percent, or 39,482 units, from the same month last year. Combined U.S. carload and intermodal originations in September 2017 were 2,125,007, up 0.7 percent, or 15,376 carloads and intermodal units from September 2016.

In September 2017, eight of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw carload gains compared with September 2016. These included: crushed stone, sand & gravel, up 8,845 carloads or 9.3 percent; primary metal products, up 3,877 carloads or 11.8 percent; and metallic ores, up 3,163 carloads or 13.6 percent. Commodities that saw declines in September 2017 from September 2016 included: grain, down 16,329 carloads or 16.7 percent; petroleum & petroleum products, down 7,267 carloads or 17.0 percent; and motor vehicles & parts, down 7,203 carloads or 9.8 percent.

“As our economy and population grow, consumer spending will grow too, and intermodal will continue to be the best way to get many goods to consumers,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray.  “The last two weeks of September were the top two intermodal weeks in history for U.S. and Canadian railroads.  We’re confident that the tremendous efforts railroads have been expending in recent years to improve service and enhance capacity will translate into continued intermodal gains.” 

Excluding coal, carloads were down 21,257 carloads, or 3.0 percent, in September 2017 from September 2016. Excluding coal and grain, carloads were down 4,928 carloads, or 0.8 percent.

Total U.S. carload traffic for the first nine months of 2017 was 10,106,660 carloads, up 3.8 percent, or 369,322 carloads, from the same period last year; and 10,432,552 intermodal units, up 3.5 percent, or 348,784 containers and trailers, from last year.

Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 39 weeks of 2017 was 20,539,212 carloads and intermodal units, an increase of 3.6 percent compared to last year.

Week Ending September 30, 2017

For a second straight week, the U.S. set a new weekly record for intermodal rail traffic. Total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 559,555 carloads and intermodal units, up 1.9 percent compared with the same week last year. 

Total carloads for the week ending September 30 were 272,662 carloads, down 1.6 percent compared with the same week in 2016, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 286,893 containers and trailers, up 5.5 percent compared to 2016.

Five of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2016. They included nonmetallic minerals, up 4,739 carloads, to 40,970; metallic ores and metals, up 1,387 carloads, to 23,956; and forest products, up 556 carloads, to 11,054. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2016 included grain, down 3,993 carloads, to 23,630; coal, down 3,781 carloads, to 88,150; and motor vehicles and parts, down 2,297 carloads, to 17,461.

North American rail volume for the week ending September 30, 2017, on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 375,608 carloads, down 0.6 percent compared with the same week last year, and 373,067 intermodal units, up 7.2 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 748,675 carloads and intermodal units, up 3.1 percent. North American rail volume for the first 39 weeks of 2017 was 27,240,916 carloads and intermodal units, up 5.0 percent compared with 2016.

Canadian railroads reported 86,485 carloads for the week, up 2.2 percent, and 73,121 intermodal units, up 16.3 percent compared with the same week in 2016 making this the third consecutive record-setting week for intermodal rail traffic in Canada. For the first 39 weeks of 2017, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 5,639,672 carloads, containers and trailers, up 11.4 percent.

Mexican railroads reported 16,461 carloads for the week, up 2.4 percent compared with the same week last year, and 13,053 intermodal units, down 1.7 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 39 weeks of 2017 was 1,062,032 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, up 0.6 percent from the same point last year.
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