Frac sand demand paces AAR carloads

Written by Stuart Chirls, Senior Editor
frac sand transload

Image: Kanorado Terminals

Sand, coal and chemicals topped rail shipments for the week of May 12, while intermodal traffic outdistanced carloads again.

Traffic among U.S. railroads totaled 550,029 carloads and intermodal units, up 5.8% for the week of May 12 from a year ago, according to the Association of American Railroads.

Total traffic was 267,196 carloads, up 5.3%, while intermodal volume was 282,833 containers and trailers, up 6.3% on 2017.

Seven of the 10 carload commodity groups tracked by AAR posted a year-on-year increase. They included nonmetallic minerals, 15.6%, followed by coal, 9.9%, and chemicals, 3.6%. Petroleum gained 8.2% but on smaller unit total relative to the largest commodities of 10,148 carloads.

In the nonmetallic minerals market, an executive supplying the energy industry described the demand by drillers for fracking sand as “insatiable,” adding that only operations issues with Class I railroads was holding back even greater shipment volumes.

Among decliners, motor vehicles slipped 7.8% just as news of softer car sales roiled the industry.

For the first 19 weeks of 2018, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 4,879,984 carloads, up 1.1% on-year, and 5,158,588 intermodal units, up 5.9%. Total combined U.S. traffic was 10,038,572 carloads and intermodal units, ahead 3.5%.

North American volume for the week on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 372,423 carloads, up 5.3% from the same week in 2017, and 371,131 intermodal units, up 5.2%. Total combined weekly traffic was 743,554 carloads and intermodal units, a gain of 5.2%. North American volume for the first 19 weeks of this year was 13,535,733 carloads and intermodal units, better by 3.2%.

Canadian railroads reported 84,175 carloads for the week, up 7.9%, and 70,827 intermodal units, up 4.2%. For the first 19 weeks of 2018, Canadian railroads saw cumulative volume of 2,777,892 carloads, containers and trailers, up 3.1%.

Mexican railroads reported 21,052 carloads for the week and 17,471 intermodal units. Cumulative volume year-to-date was 719,269 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers.

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