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October was the best month for U.S. intermodal traffic in history, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported yesterday.U.S. railroads' carload traffic last month declined 0.1 percent to 1,065,777 units, but the number of intermodal units rose 6.4 percent to 1,144,157 containers and trailers compared with October 2016 figures, AAR officials said in a press release.Combined, U.S. railroads moved 2,209,934 carload and intermodal units last month, a 3.1 percent year-over-year increase.Twelve of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by AAR each month posted gains in October. They included metallic ores, up 4,076 carloads or 20.6 percent; crushed stone, sand and gravel, up 15,873 carloads or 16.5 percent; and chemicals, up 7,390 carloads or 6.4 percent.Categories that posted decreases included grain, down 12,528 carloads or 11.8 percent; motor vehicles and parts, down 5,190 carloads or 7 percent; and coal, down 17,764 carloads or 4.9 percent.On a year-over-year basis, U.S. carloads in October were held back by declines in grain and coal volumes, said AAR Senior Vice President John Gray."However, carloads of these commodities tend to rise or fall for reasons that have little to do with the state of the economy," he said. "Excluding them, carloads were up 4.8 percent in October, their best monthly gain in almost three years. As such, rail carloads, as well as record intermodal volume in October, support the view that the economy is doing somewhat better now than it has been in the past two years."Excluding coal, carloads increased 16,544 carloads, or 2.3 percent, last month from October 2016’s level. Excluding coal and grain, carloads rose by 29,072 units, or 4.8 percent.U.S. carloads through the first 10 months of 2017 totaled 11,172,437 units, up 3.4 percent, while intermodal volume totaled 11,576,709 units, up 3.7 percent compared with the same period last year.
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