Thursday, April 03, 2014

U.S. freight traffic up again in week and in March

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For the fifth time in six weeks, U.S. freight rail traffic gained ground against the comparable week in 2013 and, not surprisingly, that contributed to increased traffic totals for the month of March, according to data released Thursday, April 3, 2014 by the Association of American Railroads.

AAR said U.S. freight carload traffic for the week ending March 29 was up 7.2% measured against the comparable week in 2013. U.S. intermodal volume also did well, up 13.5% compard with a year ago. Total U.S. rail traffic for the week was up 10% compared with the same week last year.

Eight of the 10 carload commodity groups tracked by AAR on a weekly basis posted increases compared with the same week in 2013, including grain, up 44.2%, nonmetallic minerals and products, up 11.2% and motor vehicles and parts, up 10.6%. The two declining commodities included metallic ores and metals, down 13.7%, and forest products, slipping 1%.

Canadian freight carload traffic for the week ending March 29 advanced 1.3%, while Canadian intermodal roared ahead 18.9%. Mexican freight carload traffic rose 9.5%, while Mexican intermodal gained 21.9%.

Combined North American freight carload traffic for the first 13 weeks of 2014 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads remained in negative territory, though improved, down 0.7% measured against the comparable period in 2013. Combined North American intermodal volume was up 3.3% over 2013.

The latest weekly advance in U.S. rail freight traffic contributed to a gain in March 2014 measured against the same month a year ago, AAR said. U.S. freight carload traffic during the month notched a 3.5% advance, while U.S. intermodal volume rose 9.9%. AAR noted the "weekly average of 256,477 intermodal units on U.S. railroads in March 2014 was easily the highest for any March in history and was the fourth highest for any month in history."

Eleven of the 20 commodity categories tracked by the AAR on a monthly basis saw year-over-year carload increases in March. Commodities with the biggest carload increases included grain, up 21.2%; coal, reversing recent fortunes with a 2.2% gain; crushed stone, sand and gravel, up 5.6%; and petroleum and petroleum products, up 8.2%.

"U.S. rail traffic rebounded strongly in March 2014 following a sub-par February. Grain led the way, as railroads are working hard to move the biggest grain harvest in history," said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. "In addition, coal carloads rose in March, something that's happened just one other time in the past two years. March also demonstrated that we have every reason to be optimistic that 2014 will break 2013's intermodal volume record."