U.S. freight carload volume for the latest week rose 5.6% measured against the comparable week in 2013, while U.S. intermodal volume continued to flex muscle, up 6% over the year-ago week. Total U.S. rail traffic for the week was, up 5.8% compared with the same week last year.
Nine of the 10 carload commodity groups AAR tracks on a weekly basis posted increases compared with the same week in 2013, including petroleum and petroleum products, up 24.3%, grain, 22.1%, and motor vehicles and parts, up 14.6%.
Canadian freight carload traffic for the week ending Aug. 2 likewise gained ground, up 3.9% measured against the comparable week of 2013. Canadian intermodal volume advanced 6.7%. Mexican freight carload traffic joined the winners, up 6.1% for the week, as did Mexican intermodal, up 10%.
Combined North American freight carload traffic for the first 31 weeks of 2014 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads was up 3.1% measured against the comparable period of 2013. Combined North American intermodal was up 5.9%.
The gains through Aug. 2 capped a solid month of July for all U.S. freight rail traffic, AAR said, noting U.S. freight carload traffic rose 6.3% in July compared with July 2013, while U.S. intermodal volume for the month rose 5.5%.
Fifteen of the 20 commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw year-over-year carload increases in July, led by motor vehicles and parts, up 35.9%. Carloads of grain rose 18.7% during July, which AAR noted "marked the ninth straight month of double-digit gains in U.S. grain carloads, something that hasn't happened since 1995."
Among the declining commodities, coal fell 1.7% in July measured against the comparable month in 2013.
"The economy has had several so-called "false dawns" over the past few years, but based on current rail traffic levels, there's reason to be optimistic that this time the economy might start growing like it should," said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray.