Thursday, April 06, 2017

AAR: March sees sand, grain carload marks

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Carloads on U.S. railroads grew by 7.3% in March from the same month a year ago, the Association of American Railroads reported.

Carriers moved a total of 1,283,489 carloads in March, up 87,183 carloads from March 2016. U.S. railroads originated 1,298,173 containers and trailers, a gain of 3.8%, or 47,180 units, from a year ago.

Combined U.S. carload and intermodal in March were 2,581,662, up 5.5% or 134,363 carloads and intermodal units over March 2016.

Thirteen of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR saw gains led by coal, up 19% or 63,846 carloads; crushed stone, gravel, and sand, up 12.5% or 13,154 carloads, and grain, up 10.6% or 11,336 carloads. Commodities that declined from March 2016 included motor vehicles and parts, down 5.3% or 4,999 carloads; petroleum and petroleum products, off 8.1% or 4,382 carloads, and chemicals, down 1.3% or 2,113 carloads.

Excluding coal, carloads gained 2.7% year-to-year.

"Railroading is not for the faint of heart, as markets are continually changing and railroads have to adapt to changing circumstances," said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John T. Gray. "Despite recent increases, in absolute terms rail coal volumes are much lower than they were even a few years ago, and rail crude oil volumes are roughly half what they were a couple of years ago. On the other hand, this was the best March ever for carloads of crushed stone, sand, and gravel, and it was the best March for grain since 2008."

Total U.S. carload traffic through the first three months of 2017 was 3,324,102 carloads, up 5.7%, or 180,665 carloads, from the year-ago period; and 3,387,680 intermodal units, up 1.4%, or 47,977 containers and trailers.

Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 13 weeks of 2017 was 6,711,782 carloads and intermodal units, an increase of 3.5 percent compared to 2016.

"This was the best first quarter ever for U.S. railroad intermodal volume," said Gray. "Roughly half of intermodal is international trade, but it's not just intermodal that's associated with international trade. At least 42% of the carloads and intermodal units our nation's railroads carry, and more than 35% of rail revenue, are directly associated with international trade. Approximately 50,000 rail jobs, worth over $5.5 billion in annual wages and benefits, depend directly on international trade."

For the week ending April 1, U.S. weekly rail traffic totaled 527,665 carloads and intermodal units, up 7.2% compared with the same week a year ago. Traffic totaled 259,720 carloads, up 9.1%, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 267,945 containers and trailers, up 5.5%.

Four of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2016. They included coal, up 26.8% to 78,665 carloads; metallic ores and metals, up 14.6% to 24,379 carloads, and nonmetallic minerals, up 13% to 38,251 carloads. Declines were seen in petroleum and petroleum products, off 5.8% to 10,050 carloads; chemicals, down 5.6% to 32,210 carloads, and forest products, down 4.7% to 10,469 carloads.

North American rail volume for the week ending April 1 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 357,657 carloads, up 9.3%, and 341,863 intermodal units, up 6.8% from the same week a year ago. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 699,520 carloads and intermodal units, an increase of 8.1%. North American rail volume for the first 13 weeks of 2017 was 8,873,298 carloads and intermodal units, up 4.4% compared with 2016.

Canadian railroads reported 81,027 carloads for the week, up 11.3%, and 63,670 intermodal units, up 14.1%. For the first 13 weeks of this year, Canadian volume reached 1,818,965 carloads, containers and trailers, up 8.9%.

Mexican railroads reported 16,910 carloads for the week, up 3.5% from the same week in 2016, and 10,248 intermodal units, up 0.1%. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 13 weeks of 2017 was 342,551 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, off 0.4%.












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