Eight of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by AAR saw carload gains from the year-ago month. These included crushed stone, sand and gravel, 3.8%; petroleum and petroleum products, 6.4%, and lumber and wood products, 8%.
Weaker in January 2018 were coal, 5.8%; motor vehicles & parts, 10.1%, and grain, 5.8%.
In contrast with improving economic indicators, “[R]ecent stock market gyrations remind all of us that, when it comes to things related to the economy, conditions can change quickly. For now, though, rail volumes are not flashing strong warning signs,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. “In January, intermodal picked up where it left off last year, when it set a new annual record, and several carload categories showed gains for the month.
“To be sure, we could do without January’s sharp fall in motor vehicle and coal carloads, among others, but we’re hopeful that the basic economy remains on a firm footing and that the recent turmoil in the markets simply represents an adjustment to potential interest rate changes.”
Total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 547,993 carloads and intermodal units, up 2.5% for the week ending February 3 compared with the same week in 2017. Traffic totaled 265,157 carloads, down 1.4%, while intermodal volume was 282,836 containers and trailers, up 6.3% from the year-ago week.
Five of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2017. They included metallic ores and metals, 5.8%; nonmetallic minerals, 2.4%, and chemicals, 2.3%.
Commodity groups that declined included coal, 3%; motor vehicles and parts, 12.6%, and farm products excluding grain and food, 6.8%.
North American rail volume for the week on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 364,307 carloads, down 1% compared with the same week in 2017, and 370,608 intermodal units, up 6.5%. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 734,915 carloads and intermodal units, up 2.6%. Volume for the first five weeks of 2018 was 3,408,718 carloads and intermodal units, up 0.3% on-year.
Canadian railroads reported 78,488 carloads for the week, down 2%, and 70,646 intermodal units, up 7.9%. Cumulative volume of 695,195 carloads, containers and trailers gained 0.8%.
Mexican railroads reported 20,662 carloads for the week, up 8.8%, and 17,126 intermodal units, up 3%. Cumulative volume for the first five weeks of 2018 was 185,977 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, up 0.9% on-year.