Freight rail traffic “continues to reflect the strength of the U.S. economy across all major industry sectors, with 15 of the 20 commodity categories we track having higher carloads in July 2018 than in July 2017,” said Association of American Railroads Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John T. Gray noted as the AAR presented U.S. figures for the week ending July 28, 2018, as well as volumes for July 2018. “July saw especially strong gains in commodities related to the energy sector—and also in categories tied to consumer spending, including automotive and intermodal traffic. Still of concern, though, is the potential negative impacts that could result from the ongoing discussions around trade.”
U.S. railroads originated 1,048,293 carloads in July 2018, up 3.5%, or 35,208 carloads, from July 2017. U.S. railroads also originated 1,108,142 containers and trailers in July 2018, up 6.9%, or 71,782 units, from the same month last year. Combined U.S. carload and intermodal originations in July 2018 were 2,156,435, up 5.2%, or 106,990 carloads and intermodal units from July 2017.
In July 2018, 15 of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw carload gains compared with July 2017. These included: grain, up 12,066 carloads or 14.7%; petroleum and petroleum products, up 9,661 carloads or 27%; and chemicals, up 5,649 carloads or 4.6%. Commodities that saw declines in July 2018 from July 2017 included: coal, down 9,313 carloads or 2.7%; nonmetallic minerals, down 2,917 carloads or 15.6%; and metallic ores, down 592 carloads or 2.3%.
Excluding coal, carloads were up 44,521 carloads, or 6.7%, in July 2018 from July 2017. Excluding coal and grain, carloads were up 32,455 carloads, or 5.5%.
Total U.S. carload traffic for the first seven months of 2018 was 7,795,707 carloads, up 1.6%, or 122,377 carloads, from the same period last year; and 8,261,699 intermodal units, up 6.1%, or 477,415 containers and trailers, from last year.
Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 30 weeks of 2018 was 16,057,406 carloads and intermodal units, an increase of 3.9% compared to last year.
Week Ending July 28, 2018
Total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 559,154 carloads and intermodal units, up 3% compared with the same week last year.
Total carloads for the week ending July 28 were 271,234 carloads, up 1.2% compared with the same week in 2017, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 287,920 containers and trailers, up 4.8% compared to 2017.
Seven of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2017. They included grain, up 3,524 carloads, to 24,247; petroleum and petroleum products, up 3,235 carloads, to 12,142; and chemicals, up 1,281 carloads, to 32,802. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2017 were coal, down 4,564 carloads, to 87,761; nonmetallic minerals, down 2,651 carloads, to 35,935; and miscellaneous carloads, down 804 carloads, to 9,587.
North American rail volume for the week ending July 28, 2018, on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 373,716 carloads, up 1.7% compared with the same week last year, and 378,622 intermodal units, up 4% compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 752,338 carloads and intermodal units, up 2.8%. North American rail volume for the first 30 weeks of 2018 was 21,643,092 carloads and intermodal units, up 3.5% compared with 2017.
Canadian railroads reported 81,202 carloads for the week, up 4.2%, and 71,564 intermodal units, up 0.6% compared with the same week in 2017. For the first 30 weeks of 2018, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 4,435,493 carloads, containers and trailers, up 3.8%.
Mexican railroads reported 21,280 carloads for the week, down 1.6% compared with the same week last year, and 19,138 intermodal units, up 4.3%. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 30 weeks of 2018 was 1,150,193 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers.