Carload freight, containers and trailers carried by U.S. railroads continued a strong year-end surge, according to the Association of American Railroads.
For the week ending December 22, rail traffic was 567,252 carloads and intermodal units, up 4.2% compared with the same week in 2017. Volume totaled 277,111 carloads, up 3.1%, while intermodal was 290,141 containers and trailers, up 5.3%.
Six of the 10 carload commodity groups tracked by AAR were better on-year. Coal, the single-largest category and a recent gainer, added 4,039 carloads, to 93,964, the most since Sept. 1, 2017. Coal producers saw their highest output since August 2017, at 15.9 million short tons. Natural gas, which had been averaging about $3 per million British thermal units (BTU) in 2017, climbed above $4.80 in November and ranged between $3.50 and $4.50 in December.
Other gainers included petroleum and petroleum products, 2,019 carloads, to 13,401, and chemicals, 1,908 carloads, to 35,032. Commodities on the slide included metallic ores and metals, down 1,194 carloads, to 24,385; nonmetallic minerals, down 257 carloads, to 32,826, and farm products excluding grain, and food, down 74 carloads, to 16,391.
For the first 51 weeks of 2018, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 13,430,308 carloads, up 1.7%, and 14,271,506 intermodal units, up 5.5% from the same period a year ago. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 51 weeks of 2018 was 27,701,814 carloads and intermodal units, an increase of 3.6%.
North American rail volume for the week on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 385,992 carloads, up 2.9%, and 379,667 intermodal units, up 4.8%. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 765,659 carloads and intermodal units, up 3.9%. North American rail volume for the first 51 weeks was 37,424,031 carloads and intermodal units, up 3.4% from 2017.
Canadian railroads reported 87,956 carloads for the week, up 4.8%, and 71,747 intermodal units, up 4.4%. For the first 51 weeks of 2018, Canadian railroads reported cumulative volume of 7,738,993 carloads, containers and trailers, up 3.8%.
Mexican railroads reported 20,925 carloads for the week, down 6.2% from the same week a year ago, and 17,779 intermodal units, off 0.8%. Cumulative volume for the first 51 weeks of 2018 was 1,983,224 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers.