AAR reported weekly U.S. rail traffic, as well as volumes for February 2017.
Carload traffic in February totaled 1,044,040 carloads, up 6.7 percent or 65,141 carloads from February 2016. U.S. railroads also originated 1,068,439 containers and trailers in February 2017, up 1.8 percent or 19,350 units from the same month last year. For February 2017, combined U.S. carload and intermodal originations were 2,112,479, up 4.2 percent or 84,491 carloads and intermodal units from February 2016.
In February 2017, 11 of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw carload gains compared with February 2016. These included: coal, up 19.2 percent or 57,589 carloads; crushed stone, gravel, and sand, up 13.1 percent or 10,091 carloads; and primary metal products, up 6.8 percent or 2,357 carloads. Commodities that saw declines in February 2017 from February 2016 included: petroleum and petroleum products, down 12.4 percent or 5,543 carloads; motor vehicles and parts, down 4.8 percent or 3,746; carloads and metallic ores, down 19.1 percent or 2,793 carloads.
Excluding coal, carloads were up 1.1 percent or 7,552 carloads in February 2017 from February 2016.
Total U.S. carload traffic for the first 8 weeks of 2017 was 2,040,613 carloads, up 4.8 percent from the same point last year; and 2,089,507 intermodal units, up 0.04 percent from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 8 weeks of 2017 was 4,130,120 carloads and intermodal units, an increase of 2.3 percent compared to last year.
"The 19.2 percent increase in coal carloads in February 2017 was the highest percentage gain for coal since sometime before 1988 when our current record series began," said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John T. Gray. "While it's an impressive gain, February 2017 was, unfortunately, also the second worst February in absolute terms for coal since sometime before 1988. It's all too representative of the challenges railroads are facing as their markets change. However, these same market changes are offering new opportunities. Over the past 15 years, the industry has worked hard to create a solid foundation to exploit these opportunities."
Week ending February 25, 2017
Total U.S. weekly rail traffic for the week ending February 25, 2017 was 521,451 carloads and intermodal units, up 0.1 percent compared with the same week last year.
Total carloads for the week ending February 25 were 256,756 carloads, up 3.5 percent compared with the same week in 2016, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 264,695 containers and trailers, down 3 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 14 percent to 84,822 carloads; nonmetallic minerals, up 12.1 percent to 33,908 carloads; and metallic ores and metals, up 0.2 percent to 21,272 carloads. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2016 included petroleum and petroleum products, down 15.5 percent to 9,438 carloads; motor vehicles and parts, down 5.8 percent to 18,634 carloads; and miscellaneous carloads, down 4.3 percent to 8,921 carloads.
North American rail volume for the week ending February 25, 2017, on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 351,728 carloads, up 4.6 percent compared with the same week last year, and 339,947 intermodal units, down 1.7 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 691,675 carloads and intermodal units, up 1.4 percent. North American rail volume for the first 8 weeks of 2017 was 5,446,850 carloads and intermodal units, up 3 percent compared with 2016.
Canadian railroads reported 78,200 carloads for the week, up 10.3 percent, and 64,428 intermodal units, up 5.2 percent compared with the same week in 2016. For the first 8 weeks of 2017, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 1,113,463 carloads, containers and trailers, up 7.5 percent. Mexican railroads reported 16,772 carloads for the week, down 2.9 percent compared with the same week last year, and 10,824 intermodal units, down 6.4 percent. Cumulative volume on
Mexican railroads for the first 8 weeks of 2017 was 203,267 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, down 6.9 percent from the same point last year.
Crude oil update
The AAR also reported U.S. Class I railroads originated 43,293 carloads of crude oil in the fourth quarter of 2016, down 5,685 carloads or 11.6 percent from the third quarter of 2016 and down 41,632 carloads or 49 percent from the fourth quarter of 2015.