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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

U.S. railroad traffic rose 5.2 percent in April


U.S. railroads moved 2,075,301 carloads and intermodal units in April, a 5.2 percent
increase compared with the same month a year ago, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported yesterday.

Carloads rose 8.4 percent to 1,023,300 units last month, while intermodal containers and trailers increased 2.3 percent to 1,052,001 units compared with April 2016, according to an AAR press release.

Ten of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by AAR on a monthly basis posted gains for the month. They included coal, up 26.7 percent or 65,158 carloads; grain, up 18.7 percent or 14,612 carloads; and crushed stone, sand and gravel, up 12.9 percent or 11,777 carloads.

Excluding coal, carloads were up 2 percent, or 13,791 carloads, in April 2017 over April 2016.

Commodities that logged decreases during April included petroleum and petroleum products, down 13.1 percent or 5,929 carloads; motor vehicles and parts, down 9.1 percent or 6,777 carloads; and metallic ores, down 8.4 percent or 2,083 carloads.

"U.S. grain car loadings during April 2017 were the highest since 2011, with rail grain deliveries to ports since the first of the year running 19 percent ahead of 2016," said John Gray, AAR's senior vice president of policy and economics. "These agricultural exports improve our balance of trade and strengthen the farm economy."

Motor vehicle sales fell for the second consecutive month in April. Gray attributed the decline to financing companies tightening lending standards.

"As a result, rail shipments of motor vehicles and parts fell again in April," said Gray. "We are hopeful that the upcoming summer buying season will clear dealer inventories and drive up demand for railroads to deliver new vehicles."

Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 17 weeks of 2017 rose 3.9 percent to 8,787,083 carloads and intermodal units compared with the same period last year.

Meanwhile, Canadian railroads logged cumulative traffic volume of 2,403,552 carloads, containers and trailers, up 9.8 percent, for the first 17 weeks of the year compared with last year.

Mexican railroads' cumulative volume declined 1.5 percent to 447,010 carloads and intermodal units during the first 17 weeks of 2017 compared with the same period a year ago.