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AAR: U.S. roads reached a few traffic highs in March, first quarter

In the first quarter, CSX's carloads rose 1.4 percent to 909,402 units and intermodal volume increased 0.2 percent to 687,841 units.
Photo – CSX


U.S. railroads posted healthy traffic gains in March, according to Association of American Railroads (AAR) data released yesterday.

Carloads climbed 7.3 percent to 1,283,489 units, intermodal traffic rose 3.8 percent to 1,298,173 units and total traffic rose 5.5 percent to 2,581,662 units compared with figures from the same 2016 period.

Thirteen of 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR registered increases last month, including coal at 19 percent, crushed stone, gravel and sand at 12.5 percent, and grain at 10.6 percent. Petroleum and petroleum products volume fell 8.1 percent, motor vehicles and parts traffic dipped 5.3 percent and chemical carloads declined 1.3 percent year over year. 

"Despite recent increases, in absolute terms, coal volumes are much lower than they were even a few years ago, and crude oil volumes are roughly half what they were a couple of years ago,” said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John Gray in a press release. “On the other hand, this was the best March ever for carloads of crushed stone, sand and gravel, and it was the best March for grain since 2008."

Through 2017’s first three months, U.S. carloads increased 5.7 percent to 3,324,102 units and intermodal volume ratcheted up 1.4 percent to 3,387,680 units on a year-over-year basis. 

“This was the best first quarter ever for U.S. railroad intermodal volume," said Gray. "Roughly half of intermodal is international trade, but it's not just intermodal that's associated with international trade. At least 42 percent of the carloads and intermodal units our nation's railroads carry, and more than 35 percent of rail revenue, are directly associated with international trade.”

In the week ending April 1, U.S. carloads climbed 9.1 percent to 259,720 units, Canadian carloads jumped 11.3 percent to 81,027 units and Mexican carloads rose 3.5 percent to 16,910 units compared with figures from the same 2016 period. Intermodal volumes in the three nations increased 5.5 percent, 14.1 percent and 0.1 percent, respectively.

Total North American volume for the week as reported by 13 U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads reached 357,657 carloads, up 9.3 percent versus the same 2016 period.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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