The Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported that total U.S. rail traffic increased for the month of May 2013 as well as for the week ending June 1, 2013. May 2013 saw the first year-over-year monthly total carload increase in 16 months, and the 42nd straight monthly increase in intermodal traffic.
Intermodal traffic in May totaled 1,214,116 containers and trailers, up 3 percent (35,790 units) compared with May 2012. The weekly average of 242,823 units for May was the highest weekly intermodal average for any May in history. Carloads originated in May totaled 1,401,584, up 0.7 percent (9,551 carloads) compared with the same month last year.
Eleven of the 20 major commodity categories tracked on a monthly basis by AAR saw year-over-year increases in May compared with the same month last year. Commodities with the biggest carload increases in May included petroleum and petroleum products, up 41.8 percent or 20,837 carloads; motor vehicles and parts,
Commodity categories with carload declines last month included grain, down 20 percent or 19,895 carloads; primary metal products, down 7.2 percent or 3,989 carloads; and grain mill products, down 6.9 percent or 3,332 carloads.
Year-over-year monthly carloads excluding coal and grain were up 3.6 percent or 26,772 carloads.
“The economy is still not firing on all cylinders, and rail traffic in May reflects that,” said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John Gray. “Pockets of rail traffic growth, such as autos, nonmetallic minerals, and commodities related to crude oil extraction are being countered by continued weakness in steel-related commodities, paper, and grain, among others. Like everyone else, railroads are hopeful that the economy will soon finally shake off its malaise and start reaching its potential.”
AAR also reported an increase in rail traffic for the week ending June 1, 2013. U.S. railroads originated 269,276 carloads last week, up 1.6 percent compared with the same week last year, while intermodal volume for the week totaled 221,806 units, up 3.7 percent compared with the same week last year. Total U.S. rail traffic for the week ending June 1 was 491,082 carloads and intermodal units, up 2.5 percent compared with the same week last year.
Five of the 10 carload commodity groups tracked on a weekly basis posted increases compared with the same week in 2012, led by petroleum and petroleum products, up 40.7 percent. The groups showing a decrease in weekly traffic included grain, down 20.7 percent.
For the first 22 weeks of 2013, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 6,081,180 carloads, down 1.7 percent from the same point last year, and 5,261,051 intermodal units, up 4.1 percent from last year. Total U.S. traffic for the first 22 weeks of 2013 was 11,342,231 carloads and intermodal units, up 0.9 percent from last year.
Canadian railroads reported 75,101 carloads for the week, up 8.1 percent compared with the same week last year, and 53,959 intermodal units, up 21.1 percent compared with 2012. For the first 22 weeks of 2013, Canadian railroads reported cumulative volume of 1,726,460 carloads, up 2.5 percent from the same point last year, and 1,147,853 intermodal units, up 5.4 percent from last year.
Mexican railroads reported 16,393 carloads for the week, up 13.6 percent compared with the same week last year, and 10,060 intermodal units, up 5.3 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 22 weeks of 2013 is 331,770 carloads, up 9.2 percent from the same point last year, and 202,120 intermodal units, even with last year.
Combined North American rail volume for the first 22 weeks of 2013 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 8,139,410 carloads, down 0.4 percent compared with the same point last year, and 6,611,024 trailers and containers, up 4.2 percent compared with last year.