The Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending July 1, 2017, as well as volumes for June 2017.
U.S. railroads originated 1,065,976 carloads in June 2017, up 4.4 percent, or 45,174 carloads, from June 2016. U.S. railroads also originated 1,113,575 containers and trailers in June 2017, up 4.6 percent, or 49,425 units, from the same month last year. Combined U.S. carload and intermodal originations in June 2017 were 2,179,551, up 4.5 percent, or 94,599 carloads and intermodal units, from June 2016.
In June 2017, eight of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw carload gains compared with June 2016. These included: coal, up 40,333 carloads or 13.2 percent; crushed stone, gravel, and sand, up 16,747 carloads or 18.5 percent; and chemicals, up 4,888 carloads or 4.1 percent. Commodities that saw declines in June 2017 from June 2016 included motor vehicles and parts, down 7,168 carloads or 9.5 percent; petroleum & petroleum products, down 6,724 carloads or 15.2 percent; and metallic ores, down 2,025 carloads or 7.7 percent.
“Rail traffic indicators of the economy remain mixed. While some commodity groups, such as intermodal, chemicals, and crushed stone and sand (driven heavily by frac sand) set new all-time first half records and a few others like grain and coke set post-recession records, several other traffic categories continue to struggle,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. “All of this indicates an industrial economy that may not yet have a clear direction forward and one that continues to undergo structural change. It is a sign of the reality railroads constantly face: changing markets that are difficult to foresee and plan for.”
Excluding coal, U.S. rail carloads were up 4,841 carloads, or 0.7 percent, in June 2017 over June 2016. Excluding coal and grain, carloads were up 3,668 carloads, or 0.6 percent, for the month.
Total U.S. carload traffic for the first six months of 2017 was 6,699,453 carloads, up 6.4 percent, or 404,078 carloads, from the same period last year; and a record 6,892,673 intermodal units, up 2.7 percent, or 179,515 containers and trailers, from last year and up 0.5 percent, or 32,614 units, over the previous record in the first half of 2015.
Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 26 weeks of 2017 was 13,592,126 carloads and intermodal units, an increase of 4.5 percent compared to last year.
Week Ending July 1, 2017
Total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 546,361 carloads and intermodal units, up 3.2 percent compared with the same week last year.
Total carloads for the week ending July 1 were 270,353 carloads, up 2.3 percent compared with the same week in 2016, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 276,008 containers and trailers, up 4 percent compared to 2016.
Five of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2016. They included coal, up 10.1 percent to 87,750 carloads; nonmetallic minerals, up 9 percent to 39,503 carloads; and chemicals, up 2 percent to 31,851 carloads. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2016 included petroleum and petroleum products, down 20.8 percent to 8,862 carloads; motor vehicles and parts, down 12 percent to 16,503 carloads; and farm products excl. grain, and food, down 6.1 percent to 16,044 carloads.
North American rail volume for the week ending July 1, 2017, on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 366,143 carloads, up 4.5 percent compared with the same week last year, and 353,457 intermodal units, up 5.9 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 719,600 carloads and intermodal units, up 5.2 percent. North American rail volume for the first 26 weeks of 2017 was 18,003,299 carloads and intermodal units, up 5.7 percent compared with 2016.
Canadian railroads reported 79,043 carloads for the week, up 15.1 percent, and 66,334 intermodal units, up 15.6 percent compared with the same week in 2016. For the first 26 weeks of 2017, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 3,709,721 carloads, containers and trailers, up 11.8 percent.
Mexican railroads reported 16,747 carloads for the week, down 4.8 percent compared with the same week last year, and 11,115 intermodal units, up 0.04 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 26 weeks of 2017 was 701,452 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, down 1.4 percent from the same point last year.