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AAR: U.S. intermodal traffic set record in 2018


U.S. railroads moved more intermodal volume than carloads in 2018, with carloads up 1.8 percent to 13,640,641 units and intermodal volume up 5.5 percent to 14,472,849 units compared with 2017's figures, according to Association of American Railroads (AAR) data.

Combined, U.S. railroads reported 28,113,490 carloads and intermodal units, a 3.7 percent year-over-year increase.

U.S. freight-rail traffic last year was "positive for the most part," said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John Gray in a press release.

"Intermodal set a new annual record for the fifth time in the past six years, while carloads of chemicals and crushed stone, sand and gravel set new annual records," Gray said. "Petroleum products also had a mild resurgence."

For the year, 13 of 20 commodity categories that AAR follows on a monthly basis logged carload increases, he said.

"On the negative side, coal continued to suffer in 2018 from market forces that favor natural gas and renewables for electricity generation," Gray added. "What happens in 2019 will depend on how the domestic and global economies hold up and the policies — particularly monetary and trade — that come out of our legislative and executive branches."

In December, 12 of the 20 commodity categories posted gains compared with December 2017. They included coal, up 12,382 carloads or 3.8 percent; petroleum and petroleum products, up 10,875 carloads or 26.5 percent; and chemicals, up 3,349 carloads or 2.7 percent.

Commodities that posted declines last month included crushed stone, sand and gravel, down 3,116 carloads or 4 percent; metallic ores, down 1,402 carloads or 5.3 percent; and stone, clay and glass products, down 938 carloads or 3.4 percent.

U.S. railroads' total volume for December climbed 4 percent to 2,118,094 carloads and intermodal units compared with the same month a year ago. Carloads increased 2.9 percent to 1,021,978 units, while intermodal volumes rose 5 percent to 1,096,116 containers and trailers.

Meanwhile, Canadian railroads posted 7,863,727 carloads, containers and trailers in 2018, a 4 percent increase over 2017's mark. Mexican railroads reported 2,010,939 carloads and intermodal units for 2018.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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