U.S. freight traffic ends good August strongly

Written by Douglas John Bowen
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U.S. freight rail traffic for the week ending Aug. 30, 2014 registered increases in line with the entire month of August, the Association of American Railroads said Thursday, Sept. 4.

U.S. freight carload traffic rose 1.3% in the last week of August, measured against the comparable week in 2013, while U.S. intermodal volumbe advanced 5.3%. Total U.S. rail traffic for the week was up 3.1% compared with the same week last year.

Perhaps counterintuitively, just half of the 10 carload commodity groups tracked by AAR on a weekly basis posted increases compared with the same week in 2013. They included petroleum products, up 21.2%, metallic ores and metals, up 15.7%, and grain, up 12.8%.

Canadian freight carload traffic for the week ending Aug. 30 also did well, up 4.2% measured against the comparable week in 2013. Canadian intermodal volume excelled, up 13.1%. Mexican freight carload volume fell 6.6% for the week, but Mexican intermodal volume rose 14.7%.

Combined North American rail volume for the first 35 weeks of 2014 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican was up 3.1% when measured against the comparable period in 2013. Combined North American intermodal volume rose 5.9%.

U.S. freight traffic gains in August’s final week put an exclamation point on the month, as U.S. monthly freight carload traffic rose 2.9%, while U.S. monthly intermodal volume notched a 4.3% gain. AAR said the “weekly average of 268,922 intermodal units in August 2014 was the second-highest weekly average ever, slightly behind June 2014. “

AAR also reported U.S. Class I railroads originated 119,634 carloads of crude oil in the second quarter of 2014, 8.6% more than the first quarter of 2014 and the most ever in any quarter. In the first half of 2014, crude oil accounted for 1.6% of total originated carloads for U.S. Class I railroads.

Combined U.S. carload and intermodal volume for the month was up 3.5% compared with August 2013.

“The rail industry has played and is continuing to play a critical role in the U.S. economy’s resurgence. In fact, average weekly U.S. rail volume, in terms of carloads plus intermodal containers and trailers, was higher in August 2014 than in any month since October 2007,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. “The broad range of commodities that are seeing higher rail volumes is a welcome sign for the economy.”

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