U.S. freight traffic: Good week, good January

Written by Douglas John Bowen
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U.S. freight traffic wrapped up the week ending Jan. 31, 2015 with solid gains, capping an equally solid month of advances, the Association of American Railroads reported Wednesday, Feb. 4.

U.S. freight carload traffic for the week soared 10.2% measured against the comparable week in 2014, while U.S. intermodal notched its usual gain, up 1.1% compared with year-ago levels. Total U.S. weekly traffic recorded a 5.9% rise.

Nine of the 10 carload commodity groups AAR tracks on a weekly basis posted increases compared with the same week in 2014, led by nonmetallic minerals, up 18.4%, and petroleum and petroleum products, up 17%. Only the miscellaneous carloads category slipped for the week, down 10.7%.

Canadian freight carload volume for the week ending Jan. 31 rose 13% measured against 2014 numbers, while Canadian intermodal volume leapt a staggering 32.4%. Mexican freight carload traffic for the week rose 2.3% over 2014 levels, while Mexican intermodal completed the North American winning sweep for the week, up 12.7%.

Combined north American freight carload traffic for the week ending Jan. 31 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads was up 10.4% compared with the same week in 2014. Combined North American intermodal volume was up 6%.

The latest week solidified advances in all U.S. freight rail categories for the month of January, AAR said. Total U.S. rail freight gained 3.4% over January 2014 levels, with U.S. freight carload volume rising 5.6%, while U.S. intermodal volume eked out a modest 0.9% gain, which nonetheless was “the highest weekly average for January in rail industry history,” AAR stressed.

AAR said 18 of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked on a monthly basis registered gains, led (in volume) by coal, up 4.4%, crushed stone, gravel and sand, up 22.1%, and grain, up 10.4%.

“January was a good start to the year for U.S. railroads, helped by the fact that the winter so far this year hasn’t been nearly as bad as it was last year,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. “The AAR recently estimated that U.S. railroads spent a record $27 billion on capital spending and maintenance expenses in 2014, and we’re projecting $29 billion in 2015. This massive spending is making it possible for railroads to move their customers’ freight more efficiently and reliably and steadily recover from 2014’s service issues.”

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