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Rail traffic for March and week ending March 31, 2018

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending March 31, 2018, as well as volumes for March 2018.

U.S. railroads originated 1,050,653 carloads in March 2018, up 3.6 percent, or 36,157 carloads, from March 2017. U.S. railroads also originated 1,082,239 containers and trailers in March 2018, up 6.5 percent, or 66,151 units, from the same month last year. Combined U.S. carload and intermodal originations in March 2018 were 2,132,892, up 5 percent, or 102,308 carloads and intermodal units from March 2017.
 
In March 2018, 10 of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw carload gains compared with March 2017. These included: coal, up 24,867 carloads or 7.9 percent; chemicals, up 7,492 carloads or 5.9 percent; and crushed stone, sand & gravel, up 7,124 carloads or 8 percent. Commodities that saw declines in March 2018 from March 2017 included: nonmetallic minerals, down 3,563 carloads or 19.5 percent; motor vehicles & parts, down 2,257 carloads or 3.2 percent; and coke, down 1,423 carloads or 8.1 percent.
 
“Railroads are a derived-demand industry,” said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John T. Gray. “Their level of business depends to a large degree on what’s happening elsewhere in the economy. There’s always some economic uncertainty — today that involves, among other things, trade relations, commodity prices, and what the Fed will do about interest rates — but economic signals today are mostly positive. Rail traffic in March was largely positive too, at least in terms of traffic segments that are most sensitive to what’s going on in the economy.”

Excluding coal, carloads were up 11,290 carloads, or 1.6 percent, in March 2018 from March 2017. Excluding coal and grain, carloads were up 11,042 carloads, or 1.8 percent.
 
Total U.S. carload traffic for the first three months of 2018 was 3,296,199 carloads, down 0.3 percent, or 9,027 carloads, from the same period last year; and 3,496,381 intermodal units, up 5.5 percent, or 181,304 containers and trailers, from last year.
 
Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 13 weeks of 2018 was 6,792,580 carloads and intermodal units, an increase of 2.6 percent compared to last year.
 
Week Ending March 31, 2018
 
Total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 534,751 carloads and intermodal units, up 2.8 percent compared with the same week last year.
 
Total carloads for the week ending March 31 were 265,470 carloads, up 2.8 percent compared with the same week in 2017, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 269,281 containers and trailers, up 2.8 percent compared to 2017.
 
Eight of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2017. They included coal, up 4,004 carloads, to 82,740; chemicals, up 1,497 carloads, to 33,691; and grain, up 803 carloads, to 24,002. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2017 were farm products excl. grain, and food, down 263 carloads, to 15,927; and petroleum and petroleum products, down 176 carloads, to 9,906.
 
North American rail volume for the week ending March 31, 2018, on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 367,608 carloads, up 2.1 percent compared with the same week last year, and 352,578 intermodal units, up 2.5 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 720,186 carloads and intermodal units, up 2.3 percent. North American rail volume for the first 13 weeks of 2018 was 9,149,812 carloads and intermodal units, up 2.4 percent compared with 2017.
 
Canadian railroads reported 82,078 carloads for the week, up 1.3 percent, and 68,985 intermodal units, up 8.5 percent compared with the same week in 2017. For the first 13 weeks of 2018, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 1,863,756 carloads, containers and trailers, up 2.6 percent.
 
Mexican railroads reported 20,060 carloads for the week, down 3 percent compared with the same week last year, and 14,312 intermodal units, down 22.2 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 13 weeks of 2018 was 493,476 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, down 1.7 percent from the same point last year.
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