Carload traffic moves ahead but trade concerns remain

Written by Stuart Chirls, Senior Editor
AAR

AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John T. Gray.

Freight traffic on U.S. Class I railroads totaled 1,319,420 carloads in May, up 3.2% from the same month a year ago.

The Association of American Railroads said U.S. railroads originated 1,398,203 containers and trailers, up 6.6%. Combined carload and intermodal originations in May were 2,717,623, up 4.9% from May 2017.

Fifteen of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR saw carload gains in May. Crushed stone, sand and gravel gained 13.7%; chemicals, 6.1%, and coal, 1.7%.

Weaker commodities included nonmetallic minerals, 17%; metallic ores, 6.6%, and the general category of all other carloads, 6.9%.

“In May, U.S. rail carloads were higher in 15 of the 20 carload commodity categories the AAR tracks, including nearly all of the major ones,” said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John T. Gray. “In addition, intermodal volume in May was the second-highest for any month in history. Right now, the economy is clicking, and railroads are both beneficiaries and enablers of that. One potential cloud on the horizon, though, involves trade. Freight railroads are essential to the flow of goods and rely on sensible trade policy. We’re hopeful that federal policymakers will recognize that an unnecessary trade war would do far more harm than good.”

Total U.S. traffic for the first five months of 2018 was 5,666,645 carloads, up 1.2% on-year, and 5,993,584 intermodal units, up 6%.

Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 22 weeks of 2018 was 11,660,229 carloads and intermodal units, an increase of 3.6% compared to 2017.

For the week ending June 2, U.S. rail traffic was 509,740 carloads and intermodal units, up 3.2% from a year ago, which also included the Memorial Day holiday.

Volume totaled 252,162 carloads, up 0.2%, while intermodal volume was 257,578 containers and trailers, up 6.3% compared to 2017.

Eight of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase year-on-year. They included petroleum, 17.7%; nonmetallic minerals, 4.9%, and chemicals, 4.7%.

Commodities that posted decreases were coal, 7.7%, and grain, 1.5%.

North American rail volume for the week ending June 2 on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 352,936 carloads, up 1.5% from the same week last year, and 339,482 intermodal units, up 3.2%. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 692,418 carloads and intermodal units, up 2.3%. North American rail volume for the first 22 weeks of 2018 was 15,720,523 carloads and intermodal units, up 3.2%.

Canadian railroads reported 79,929 carloads for the week, up 6.4%, and 65,817 intermodal units, down 2.2%. For the first 22 weeks of 2018, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 3,227,394 carloads, containers and trailers, up 3.4%.

Mexican railroads reported 20,845 carloads for the week and 16,087 intermodal units. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 22 weeks of 2018 was 832,900 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers.

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