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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends
Total U.S. rail traffic falls in 2015, but intermodal sets a record high
U.S. railroads logged a total traffic volume of 27,976,850 carloads and intermodal units in 2015, a decrease of 2.5 percent compared with 2014's volume, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) announced yesterday.
The year-end announcement of a decline in traffic came as no surprise, as carload volumes had been down for much of 2015. Total carload traffic for the year clocked in at 14,266,204 carloads, down 6.1 percent or 911,823 carloads.
However, intermodal traffic represented a bright spot for last year: U.S. railroads transported a total 13,710,646 containers and trailers — a 1.6 percent increase over 2014's volume and a new annual record for U.S. rail intermodal traffic, according to AAR.
“Weaknesses in energy and manufacturing, as well as, world economic softening, had a negative impact on both carload and intermodal traffic in 2015," said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John Gray. "Railroads can’t do much about the macroeconomic environment, but what they have done and are doing is making sure they operate safely and efficiently to maximize their customers’ opportunities to grow their own business. The nation’s railroads are well positioned to serve their customers in 2016."
One example of the energy industry's impact on rail traffic last year was in the crude-by-rail realm. Although year-end numbers aren't yet available, crude-by-rail traffic transported in the United States during the first nine months of 2015 was down more than 10 percent compared with 2014's traffic, according to AAR.
North American rail volume for 2015 declined 2.2 percent to 36,440,659 carloads and intermodal units compared with 2014's figures. Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 7,064,950 carloads, containers and trailers, down 1.7 percent for the year; Mexican railroads logged 1,398,859 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers in 2015, up 1.1 percent from the same point in 2014.
For the month of December, U.S. carload and intermodal originations were 2,399,350, down 8.9 percent or 233,979 carloads and intermodal units from December 2014. Commodity categories that posted declines during the month included coal, down 27.9 percent; petroleum and petroleum products, down 20.5 percent; and metallic ores, down 39.1 percent.
Four of the 20 commodity categories that AAR tracks logged increases last month. They were: miscellaneous carloads, up 46.6 percent; motor vehicles and parts, up 5.2 percent; chemicals, up 0.7 percent; and waste and scrap, up 3.3 percent.
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