Best-ever month for chem carloads

Written by Railway Age Staff

Railroads in the United States originated 1,028,141 carloads in February, down 0.3% from the same month in 2017, the Association of American Railroads said.

The railroads also originated 1,104,001 containers and trailers, up 6.9%. Combined U.S. carload and intermodal originations in February were 2,132,142, up 3.3% from February 2017.

Nine of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR saw gains from a year ago, including crushed stone, sand and gravel, up 7.5%; chemicals, 3.4%, and metallic ores, 19.4%.

Declines year-on-year included coal, 1.7%; grain, 5.3%, and motor vehicles & parts, 4.5%.

“Rail carloads in February, like in many other recent months, were held back by declines in coal, grain, and motor vehicles,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. “Declines in those categories are unfortunate, but they don’t reflect general weakness in the economy. Excluding them, carloads were up a reasonably solid 2.1% in February. Moreover, February 2018 was the best month ever for carloads of chemicals and the second-best month ever for intermodal. While these are good signs for the broader economy going forward, they are potentially compromised by the uncertainty created by recent developments in trade policy.”

Excluding coal, carloads were up 0.4% in February from a year ago. Excluding coal and grain, carloads were up 1.3%.

Total U.S. carload traffic for the first two months of 2018 was 2,245,546 carloads, down 2% on-year, and 2,414,142 intermodal units, up 5%.

Total combined U.S. traffic for the first nine weeks of 2018 was 4,659,688 carloads and intermodal units, an increase of 1.5%.

Total U.S. rail traffic for the week ending March 3 was 544,194 carloads and intermodal units, up 5.8% percent compared with the same week in 2017.

Total volume was 264,659 carloads, up 1.3%, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 279,535 containers and trailers, up 10.4%.

Six of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2017. They included chemicals, 6.1%; miscellaneous carloads, 10.7%, and nonmetallic minerals, 2.7%.

Weaker shipments included grain, 3.3%; forest products, 4.7%, and motor vehicles and parts, 1.3%.

North American rail volume for the week on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 366,104 carloads, up 0.9%, and 368,540 intermodal units, up 10.7%. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 734,644 carloads and intermodal units, up 5.6%. Volume for the first nine weeks of 2018 was 6,263,524 carloads and intermodal units, up 1.2%.

Canadian railroads reported 79,469 carloads for the week, down 1.2%, and 70,595 intermodal units, up 16.4% compared with the same week in 2017. For the first nine weeks of 2018, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 1,261,814 carloads, containers and trailers, up 0.7%.

​Mexican railroads reported 21,976 carloads for the week, up 4.7%, from a year ago, and 18,410 intermodal units, down 2.8%. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first nine weeks of 2018 was 342,022 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, down 0.9% from the same point in 2017.

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